The first time I heard about Harry Potter and his lightning-shaped scar, I was in high school. A nerd, and damn proud of it, I had many friends who were members of various fandoms- Highlander, Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, amongst other. A friend in the class below me asked if I had heard of this new British book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I had not, but as an bookworm I was willing to give it a shot. I wasn’t doing a lot of reading at the time, due to my heavy course load, so a kid’s book seemed like a perfect choice. My friend, Anne, brought in her copy a few days later, and I flew through it. This was in 1998. I was a sophomore in high school.
Upon finishing the first book I was irritated to learn that the next book wouldn’t be available until 1999. That was a whole year away! Keep in mind, this was in a world before Mugglenet, before The Leaky Cauldron, and before the joys of the multitude of websites devoted to the Harry Potter fandom. Waiting for the next book meant just that- waiting. (I vaguely remember a friend visiting England and getting a British copy, but the rest of us had to wait).
On June 2, 1999 I remember begging my mother to drive me to Barnes and Noble to pick up the newest book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We didn’t get tickets to the midnight release party so we picked it up the next morning. I remember spending a gift card on the hardcover book, a rarity for me. I read it in less than a day. The next book was released on a few months later, on September 2, 1999. I remember it was right before school started. The popularity of the books was growing and more and more people were Harry Potter fans.
Over the next year, Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron were launched. My friends and I finally had a place to go and share our Harry Potter love. On July 8, 2000 the fourth book was published. My friends and I, entering our senior year of high school, attended the midnight release party at our local Barnes and Noble. We tore through the book, logging onto Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron as soon as we finished so that we could start theorizing.
At this point, some of my friends started getting involved with fanfiction. I never write and fanfic, but I was a beta reader for lots of friends!
We had to wait a long time for the next book- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I graduated high school and started college. I met more Harry Potter fans. In fact, most of my college friends were big fans of the chosen one. My friend Jess introduced me to the wonders of Draco Malfoy fanfiction and I started reading Cassie Clare’s livejournal and fanfiction. The Draco Trilogy was epic. And come on- we had to wait 3 years between books! We needed something to keep us going!
During this time the first film was also released. I remember seeing the film with some high school friends over Thanksgiving break. JK Rowling’s website was also growing during this time, with small updates about the progress of the next book.
Finally, it was 2003. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released on June 21, 2003. My birthday was June 23rd. I wasn’t able to make it to the midnight release party and was heartbroken. But on June 22nd I had plans to go to Seaside for my birthday and my friend Matt was picking me up. Matt (or “the boy with the orange shoes”, as my mom called him) showed up at my house and handed me a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He had gone to the release party a few hours earlier and picked up two copies. One for himself, and one as my birthday gift. It was awesome! I remember reading frantically in the car as he drove to Seaside that day. Sitting on the beach, celebrating my birthday with friends, I just wanted to get back to reading!
It was two more years before we would have the next book. By this point, my now-husband and I were seriously dating. He was not a Harry Potter fan before I met him, but I convinced him to give them a try. As a non-reader (I know!), he started listening to the audiobooks. Pretty soon, he was a huge Harry Potter fan!
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released on July 16, 2005. My friends and I were college graduates. But that certainly didn’t stop us from dressing up and going to the midnight release party at the Barnes and Noble by campus! Chris dressed as Harry Potter and I dressed as Hermione. There was a huge group of us there, including Mel and Siobhan. We were all dressed up. We had to get tickets for our books and there was an hours-long party before the books were handed out at the stroke of midnight. Chris won a free copy of the book, which was awesome! His costume was great and lots of little kids asked if he was Harry. And we when left, at 12:05am, he was stopped by one of his professors who was also a huge Harry Potter fan. Talk about crossing all age and gender lines!
My husband also made us amazing wands, to be used at midnight release parties and premieres. I used mine when I was student teaching and dressed up at Harry Potter. I have since used it for other Harry Potter costumes. It’s amazing and better than anything I would get at Olivander’s. My wand is painted with monarch butterflies and caterpillars, which are a huge part of my life. (pictured above)
Chris is not reader, as I said. But he does like audiobooks. Of course at this point, the audiobooks were not released simultaneously. Thus, Chris and I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince aloud. The entire thing. I had no voice by the end, but it was well worth it! We stayed in his room and read for about 12 hours straight. We couldn’t stop because the internet was full of spoilers! We avoided tv, the internet, IMs, everything until the book was finished. At which point we promptly got in touch with our friends (who also read all night and all day) and discussed the book.
The final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released on July 21, 2007. By this point Chris had his own apartment and was working. I was living at home and teaching full-time. We decided to skip the midnight release festivities in favor of getting sleep so that we could read the entire book the next day. We ended up waking up at 5:30am and going to the Shoprite up the road (open at 6am). We were the only people in the store at that hour, but they were selling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! We picked up our copy, grabbed breakfast at the bagel store next store, and we were home by 6:30am, reading. Wespent the months leading up to that moment reading theories online and coming up with our own theories. We settled in for the day and I began reading aloud. Again, we were finished in about 12 hours and jumped online to chat with other fans about the end of an era.
In 2009, I attended NCTE in Philadelphia. While I was there (for the day!), the all-too-kind Monica Edinger was nice enough to take a few moments away from the conference to meet with me. We met up in the lobby of the hotel attached to the convention center and traded blog stories. A few minutes into our conversation, Monica excused herself, saying she saw someone she knew. Moments later, she was back with a petite blonde woman about my age. ”Sarah, this is Cheryl Klein from Scholastic”. I about passed out. I was well aware of who Cheryl Klein was- the continuity editor for the US editions of Harry Potter. I shook her hand and proceeded to spit out a few words about being excited to meet her. Cheryl was kind enough to pretend to have heard of my blog (only around for about a year at that time!)! It didn’t matter- I was just thrilled to meet her! It was one of the pinnacles of my time in the Harry Potter fandom.
While Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the last book, it didn’t feel like the end. We knew there were more movies coming so we weren’t too sad. Since then Chris and I have seen each of the movies multiple times. Today I purchased tickets for the final film. Gone are the days of midnight showings- I am too old to stay awake that late! I know I won’t fully enjoy the movie if I have to stay awake until 3am. Plus, Chris has work the next day. So we will be seeing the final film at 7pm on Friday. I know I will be sad when I walk out of the theater, because it is the end of an era.
I read my first Harry Potter book as a sophomore in high school, a book recommended by a friend. Since then I have made new friends, also fans. I went to college while waiting for the next books to be published. I met Chris, fell in love, and read aloud the final books so that we could share them together. In the beginning I wasn’t allowed to go to the midnight release parties because I had school. Today I am an adult and just can’t do it! But I’ve been to midnight release parties, dressed up in costume, spent those nights with friends, had friends gift me with books, made new friends thanks to Harry and his friends, and eventually, became a married Harry Potter fan. Before the final book was published, I was a teacher, recommending Harry Potter to my middle school students. I watched as a new generation of students picked up J.K. Rowling’s tomes, unsure if they could read a series as long as Harry Potter. I watched them tear through book after book, learning to love reading. Today I teach at that same high school where I first met Harry. I know I will see some of my students at the premiere, bringing me full circle. Harry Potter has been with me from high school to marriage. I’ve truly grown up with Harry, Hermione, and Ron.
That’s my history with Harry. What’s yours?