“I don’t think the end of the story happens here tonight,” said Daniel Radcliffe at the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie. “Because each and every person, not only in this square but also watching around the world, who will see this film and who have followed these films over the last ten years, will carry this story with them through the rest of their lives, and it will affect what they do.”
Fifteen years ago this week, the first Harry Potter movie was released. I was in first grade when it came out, only six years old — that was the same year I discovered Harry Potter, the first book carefully tucked away behind my teacher’s desk. I remember how cold it was, how I was wrapped up in my winter coat, and being scared of the troll. That year, 2001, was the start of a lifelong love of mine.
I loved Harry Potter. For almost a year, the first four books were all I would read. My parents even grounded me from reading them at one point, and I hid them underneath my mattress to read under the covers with a flashlight. I loved Harry Potter. “I solemnly swear that Harry Potter isn’t done until I beat all the video games,” my small ten-year-old-self promised, determined to never let it die.
I owned multiple copies of the games — that would make Harry Potter ending for me even more difficult, I rationalized. I read “Harry Potter & History”, checked out “Quidditch Through the Ages” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” from the public library so many times I still have their location memorized, and even read and wrote Harry Potter fanfiction. I loved Harry Potter dearly.
Every single year when a Harry Potter book came out, my family knew not to bother me. I remember tugging the fifth, and biggest, book with me everywhere. I bit my lip and marked the pages with blood, let juice and grass stain it, and lost the cover long ago. The sixth book, my parents went out and got for me. I rolled over in bed that morning and heard something fall off with a loud thump. Peeking over the edge showed me the dark green cover of the sixth Harry Potter book. When I finished it, I cried for hours, letting my mother comfort me as I wept over Albus Dumbledore.
For the seventh book, my dad took me to Barnes & Noble to wait for the release, before we got fed up with the long lines and just went to Meijer to snatch it up. I didn’t sleep until I finished that one — I’m not even sure I ate without that book in my hand.
When the final movie came out, despite all the promises my younger self made, I wept. I cried because at the age of sixteen, after a decade of Harry Potter, I had no idea what to do with myself. How do I move on? How do I continue?
Now, in 2016, I see that I don’t have to. J.K. Rowling released a new book, a script of “The Cursed Child” — I bought it the day it came out, despite knowing the entire plot, and read it within a day. The first Fantastic Beasts movie is coming out today, and there will be four more afterwards. Eight Harry Potter books! Thirteen Harry Potter movies! Six-year-old me could have never conceived of such when I plucked that book off the shelf.
I’ve heard so much criticism of how Harry Potter is continuing — I’ve voiced much of it, myself, and will readily admit I only bought “The Cursed Child” to laugh at it — but it’s still so great to see my childhood continuing.
Has something like this ever happened before? I don’t know. Were there children in the 1950s eagerly awaiting each new book of “The Chronicles of Narnia”? Staying up late to read them as they came out, discussing theories with their friends, crying over the loss of each character as they died or faded away?
To quote “End of an Era” by Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls: “Could there ever be again / Another one like this / One that’s brought us together and / Started its own music movement.” Whether or not you like Harry Potter, or whether or not you wish it had ended with the eighth movie and seventh book, you have to admit, it’s pretty impressive. Fifteen years after I picked up the first book, I’m still eagerly awaiting more Harry Potter.
As J.K. says, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”