Once upon a time, not quite twenty years ago, there lived a kindly librarian and a lonely little girl. The kindly librarian gave the lonely little girl a book, and that’s where this story begins.
I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in a single sitting, alone on my couch after school. I think it was springtime. I know I was eleven years old, and in the sixth grade, and Jane Russell was kind to me. I immediately read it a second time the next day. I loved books, yes, but this was different. In a life where I’d befriended many books, this one was love in its truest and purest form. I went to Barnes and Noble with my parents every Sunday instead of church, and one day, there was a small advertisement for a sequel. A sequel! The book I loved would have a sequel! Devoured and loved, and then a third.
Soon, it became a phenomenon, and a community. In the loneliest teenage hours, Hogwarts offered me refuge. It was the molten something that would harden into the deepest, truest friendships I’ve ever been granted. I was a Ravenclaw. My middle school best friend and my college best friend? Both Slytherins. It was our own Unbreakable Vow. We loved Harry Potter, and each other. We hid in the adult fiction aisle in the Barnes and Noble during the release party for Order of the Phoenix, because it was the only place no one else was loitering. We wore costumes and learned the books by heart. I went through a thousand phases, but this was as ingrained in me as my tendency to run my mouth. I attended five release parties, and five midnight premieres, and a theme park, and an exhibit. Last year, I attended the Cursed Child release party, emotional that I would get to do it one more time. Harry Potter is a gift my generation was given, and I will never deny how lucky I was to grow up with Harry.
Later, I got to introduce the love of my life to the series, and watch as he learned to love it. He knew on some level that to love me was to find his own fate tied to the series. Now, I sometimes get to go to PotterCon, and facilitate the love of fellow fans for Harry. Places like the theme parks and PotterCon tap into something deeper- we get to be Sorted, try Butterbeer, cast spells.
This isn’t a critical piece. Just a story, really a love letter. Thank you, JK Rowling, for more gifts than you could realize you gave millions of strangers. You gave us stories, yes. You also gave us friendships, community, role models, and sanctuary. You gave a lot of us the light in our darkest hours.
Maybe I never got my Hogwarts letter, but I got magic and I got an education.