The longest relationship I’ve ever had is not my most recent endeavor at romance, believe it or not. That two-year jaunt aside, my longest standing ties are to, not a real person, but a fictional one – one with glasses, untidy hair, and a lightning bolt scar.
Now, I know what you’re saying.
“You can’t have a relationship with a fictional character.” CLEARLY this is not a REAL relationship with give and take between two people, as a relationship should be.
What Harry Potter did for me, though, is more than, I’m sad to admit, ANY relationship has ever done for me. He gave me a sense of belonging. The Potter fandom is wide and diverse and filled with so many amazing people, and those people have embraced each other since the long three-year-summer (which I was unfortunately too young to experience). And while I’m new to the fandom in terms of how long some people have been involved with the Potter series, the funny thing is that no one really cares when you got into it, just that you did.
Let me backtrack and say that I physically did not pick up a Potter book until I was in middle school. So somewhere between 2006-2007 I managed to read the first six books.
I know, I know. YOU WERE SO BEHIND. But, in my defense, I had spent up until ’05 in a private school where the books were frowned upon, and I’m pretty sure I took up the task as part of a “word count competition” in my first advanced reading class. If you’re gonna read the most words, they might as well be good words, amIright?
My earliest memories of Potter were actually long before that, sitting in my parents bedroom late (8pm?) one night in 2001/2002 and watching Sorcerer’s Stone. I was so terrified by the cloaked Voldemort at the time that I made them turn the TV off (I was six, in my defense).
It wasn’t until ’04 that I actually caught up on the movies to that date. My mother, who can speed read faster than anyone, had started to read the series while flying (because she did that a LOT), and one summer day decided to check out the Potter audiobooks to listen to while doing work.
I distinctly remember her sitting by the pool in our backyard and telling me, as it happened, about the Yule Ball, and the Second Task in the Triwizard Tournament, and how it had mermaids (I assumed Ariel) and half-shark-half-humans, and I probably thought “wow, that sounds awesome!” Little Holly was excited to watch a movie about magic (because what eight year old doesn’t love magic) and dancing and mermaids.
Maybe it’s because I was too young to fully understand the concepts of what Harry and his friends were going through (I was 10). Maybe because, at that time, I was also going through some severe emotional changes (which eventually lead to my move in schools). But I did NOT like what I saw of the Potter movies, even from bits and pieces – and especially not the scary ass mermaids from Goblet.
It wasn’t until the summer of ’07 that things really changed.
As many fanatics know, that was a BIG time for the fandom. Just three days before my 12th birthday, the Order of the Phoenix movie was set to be released, so my mother, being a bigger fan than I was, bought tickets for me and friends Jaime and Holly to go see it with her at our globe IMAX, which was a pretty cool experience. It was the first time I’d ever had to wait in line for a movie – and by wait in line, I mean get to the museum where the theatre was TWO HOURS early to have Mom go sit in line while we looked around.
It didn’t really hit me until later in the summer that this was something big. The Order movie had made me a little more into the series as a whole – I really liked the rebellious aspect of Dumbledore’s Army, and Umbridge was the first movie villain I actually hated, because she was so believable. So when my mother suggested we go to the Deathly Hallows book release party at our local Borders (RIP, Borders), I agreed. Hey, a chance to stay up past midnight with my parents permission, free goodies, and my friends were coming. It was a major score for a 12-year-old Holly.
That night is what really did me in. I wish I had pictures, I wish I’d snapped some documented memories of the amazing time I had that night. Because even though I hadn’t read the series, had experienced the films. So I knew who Tonks was, knew who Draco was, knew who Snape was when three cosplayers dressed up as them started to have a duel in the middle of the store. I knew who Dumbledore was, but had no idea what anyone was talking about when they said the “Astronomy Tower scene” (clearly, I found out later that night and was devastated).
But that immersive culture, that night spent in complete fantasy, surrounded by people of all walks of life who were all rallied together to toast to the end of something that, for most of them, had been a part of their lives for almost a decade, was what made me really want to take on the Potter series as novels.
And I did. And since then, it’s only been more and more wonderful each day.
I read the books in, I want to say, less than a few months. And I fell in love. I fell in love with the world, with the details that were left out of the movies that I spotted from the start, with the scenes that I imagined but never got to see. I fell in love with Hermione and Ginny, who were two of the first literary heroes I ever had (read more about my journey to love reading here). I fell in love with the imagery and the language and the art of Jo’s storytelling that left me wanting more and turning page after page, staying up late and hanging on every word.
After finishing the series, I was so engrossed that I started trolling the internet for new information, and found popular sites like The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet. I listened to MuggleCast religiously and read fan fiction, even turning to writing some, at first under the embarrassing screen name RitaSkeeterWannaBe. I even did my final project that year of endless reading on Ginny Weasley, and her journey as a character throughout the series.
I became a member of the local Harry Potter Meetup group, I went to midnight movie releases (once again near my birthday!), and I built my collection of memorabilia, including the entire Dumbledore’s Army wand collection, the Timeturner and Hermione’s earrings from the Yule Ball, all in one Christmas.
Mind you, I did all of this while I was still in middle school. It was an obsession of a young girl who wanted to go to a Hogwarts, who was getting bullied and berated even after moving schools, who had crushes on boys way out of her league but was determined to pull a Hermione and get the dream ginger in the end.
When I was young and awkward, Harry was young and awkward with me. I re-read passages with Malfoy after bad days, imagining my favorite teachers turning my bullies in to Ferrets. When I was angry at the world before starting high school, I dove into Order again (because let’s be honest, Sassy Harry is the best Harry) and worked my way through the angst with him.
And the older I got, the less it became about the obsession, and the more it became about exploring the world, about expanding the world, and making friends while doing it. Sure, people thought I was crazy at times. Especially when I would dress up at premiers or quote the books on MySpace (holla!) or spend my Saturday nights constructing an AU fanfic instead of out with my friends during the early years in high school. But when you’ve found somewhere you feel comfortable, with people you’re comfortable with, why feel ashamed?
I took a particularly large break from the fandom between 2012 and 2014 to focus on DECA. I did a little writing here and there, but in all reality my brain space was totally occupied with things that I deemed more important (trust me, I’m glad I’ve found a balance, because writing that sentence even sounded crazy to me).
I slowly started to get back into the Potter world over Spring Break this year, when I took my first big trip to Florida and visited Harry Potter World for the first time with one of my best friends, Lindsey, a fellow Potter addict. And I really think it was that experience, yet another immersive few hours, that kicked me in the butt and told me I needed to get back in the saddle.
I revamped some of my old fictions, started working on new ones, and even got back onto old forums that I hadn’t logged into for years! This fall, I managed to find my latest Potter obsession, MuggleNet’s own Alohomora, a global re-read of the series.
I started listening a little over two years in, and quickly fell in love with the hosts and their humor and love for the series, so I’ve been catching up on the old episodes. It’s been about two months, but I have a 45 minute commute to school so I’m almost completely caught up and ready for their Order movie watch on Sunday, January 3, where fans will watch the movie on their own and then participate in a live call in show to discuss all the feels.
I know this was a long post, and thank you for sticking it out with me. And thank you, dear readers, for accepting me as I am, just like the fandom, and Harry, did so many years ago for that awkward little girl.
To the people who say Harry Potter is a children’s series, I ask them to read it for themselves. To really look and see all the marvelous things in this beautiful world created by a struggling, young, single mother who sat in a coffee shop writing the first book because it was cheaper to pay for a cup of coffee each day than to pay her heating bill. I ask them to tell me that the things we learn as children don’t effect how we act as adults, and that sometimes, even as adults, we all haven’t learned the same lessons based on how we were raised.
Potter has taught me so many things over the years. It’s taught me that there’s light even in the darkest of times. It’s taught me that there are more important things in life than cleverness and knowledge. It’s taught me that choices truly define who we are. And it’s taught me that even after a few years of distance, even after the changes we go through in life that leave us a totally different person than when we started the journey with the series, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home.