Every fall Hogwarts students around the world prepare for their return to the school of witchcraft and wizardry. When the leaves turn, I get nostalgic for the days when my next-door neighbor and I would fly around on our broomsticks in the backyard, curse Snape for his outrageous potions homework, and giggle about having crushes on Fred and George.
I was 11 when my Dad read the first Harry Potter book to me; I turn 25 tomorrow and my love for the Harry Potter books has only grown. I surround myself with good people, so it’s not often that anyone questions my devotion for the boy-wizard, but occasionally unsure adults will nod and chuckle patronizingly if I start rambling about wand lore. That’s fine! If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that if you were born after 1980 and haven’t read the Harry Potter books by the time you’re 20, I’m certainly not the weird one.
Harry Potter has expanded from the initial 7 books into 8 feature-length films, countless special features and spin-offs, an entire Website devoted to the Wizarding World and Rowling’s original writing, a 2-part theatrical play, and – in three weeks – the first in an installment of 5 films based in the Wizarding World. Oh, and don’t forget the enormous theme park recreating Hogwarts and Hogsmead, full scale. All told, the Harry Potter Franchise is estimated to be worth 25 billion dollars. I’ve certainly been wary of the seemingly non-stop expansion of my beloved 7-book series; I’ve even occasionally wished that Rowling would simply devote herself to her crime novels for a few years and let the Wizarding World rest. Nevertheless, I pre-ordered Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and I’m throwing a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them release party at my library. For me, no matter the outcome of these new magical endeavors – whether they are abysmal failures like Cursed Child or a journey back into the magic like most of Pottermore – the first 7 books will always stand alone.
I’ve never really questioned why I love Harry Potter the way I do, there are only a few years I can even vividly remember before they were a part of my life. There are probably a myriad of reasons I feel such devotion and palpable loyalty to the story, not least of which are that the books are a part of my childhood and excellent works of fiction in their own right.
I love the Harry Potter series because it is the only story I’ve read where I have felt truly a part of the world, even after finishing the last book. Thousands of words have been written on Rowling’s layered and detailed storytelling, her dynamic and living characters, so I’ll spare you. Personally, Harry Potter’s world exists in my head the same way Charlemagne or Alexander the Great’s world does. The only difference is I know Harry Potter’s birthday and I’m vaguely aware that Harry Potter is a fictional character.
I love Harry Potter because it is a safe space. Harry Potter is my Room of Requirement: I always find what I need when I open one of the books. A piece of my childhood, or a memory, or simply a feeling is waiting in every chapter, and, incredibly, the books seem to grow with me. I don’t remember how I felt the first time Cedric was murdered by Voldemort, however, that same scene now makes my gut twist and my eyes well will tears. The implications of the entire Wizarding War ring a clearer and more terrible truth each time I read Deathly Hallows. Subtle and comic relationships between characters are more meaningful. The story is just as powerful and engaging now as it was 14 years ago.
I love Harry Potter for all the other reasons too: the fantastic array of female characters, the enchanting world of magic and spells, the exotic landscape of British boarding school with uniforms and prefects and dormitories, the castle and the White Haired Wizard. I love Harry Potter because it’s adventure and fun. If I’ve ever looked aghast at you after you’ve admitted you haven’t read the books or have only watched the movies, this is why. I want you to be a part of something I have loved so much, for so long. The joy, the comfort and the entertainment Harry Potter has brought me: that’s why I love it.
J.K Rowling said it best: Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home.