I chose not to play an instrument in elementary school, so, when the rest of the class was at band practice, I was the only sixth-grade girl left in a classroom with six boys. We would read, do homework, play games ... do anything we wanted, really, as long as we entertained ourselves without injury for an hour.
I was introduced to Harry Potter during one of these sessions. I leaned against one of the walls, turning pages of a California Diaries book. I saw that one of my classmates--a boy who was often teased (though lovingly, albeit) about his tan appearance--was also reading.
"What's that about?" I asked, pointing to his book.
"Harry Potter," he said. "I like it. It's about a wizard who goes away to a wizarding school and basically has to fight evil he doesn't understand. It's really good."
I nodded, interested. I didn't read fantasy novels all that often, but I was willing to branch out.
"I think you should read it," my classmate added. "There are a couple of books out, and the author's going to write them for awhile, I guess."
I nodded again. "Sounds good. I'll get to it."
I went back to my book, not even thinking about it his suggestion until a few weeks later, when the Scholastic Book order forms came.
For years, mom had been saving money every few months so I could order books from the tissue-paper-like order forms our teachers sent home with us. Each year, she would give me $25 to spend at the Scholastic Book Fair that visited the school. I loved new books; the smells, the unturned pages. Education, opportunity, adventure, enjoyment ... I loved to read.
This time, when the order form came, I saw that the Harry Potter novels were included. "Hey, mom, can I get those? A classmate said they were really good and that I should try them."
Needless to say, I shortly became the owner of what are now battered and beaten copies of the first two novels.
I was eleven then; the same age Harry and his friends were when they first traveled to Hogwarts. And, like many of my peers around the world, I imagined myself with him. I literally had dreams of attending the school with them, of roaming the ancient stone hallways. I understood Harry's quest, but was still filled with enough childhood naivety to allow myself, for moments at a time, to believe that it was all real.
I remember seeing the first movie on opening night, and seeing my best friend and her sister dressed up in wizard robes. I had not been at school for the past few days, as I had been feeling ill. However, neither my mother and I wanted to miss the movie. We sat near the back of the theater (which, years later, is now bankrupt) and watched with joy as the screen brought life to Peeves, Ollivander, Harry and Hedwig. We were joined by one of my classmates--the same boy who introduced me to Harry two years prior.
A few years later, I avidly searched the house for a coupon for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I stroked its cover when mom brought it home from Barnes and Noble. It smelled new and exciting, and I later found that Voldemort began an even more ominous presence within the pages.
During my junior year of high school, I talked with my classmates about The Prisoner of Azkaban and acknowledged that we would still be watching the movies in college. It seemed silly at the time, really ... but now, twelve years after I cracked the spine on my first novel, it isn't senseless at all. We all grew to love a fictional character and, even more, his fictional world. It's hard to let go of a captivating story that, for more than a decade, has convinced so many people that magic does exist.
I witnessed a costume contest at the midnight release of the final book (the winner of which was convincingly dressed as Hagrid). My college friend and I shouted for joy when we bought our copies--we were among the first twenty to receive them. I raced home, read until 5:00 in the morning. I slept for a few hours and finished the novel soon after I awoke. I cried into my hands when I read the book. I cried into my hands when I watched Part 2.
But, then again, Harry isn't really dead. As Neville says, he lives in each of us, and we won't forget. We don't want to forget ... that's why we blog, write, reminiscence. It's hard to let go.