How Harry Met Sarah

The wands Chris made for us

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!

At our last midnight release party, dressed up as Hermione and Harry

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?

3 Responses

  1. We love Harry at my house too.

    I was a junior in high school when the first book was released, but I never read it. It was a “kids” book, I thought.

    Then a few years ago, I got a job as a children’s assistant librarian. With a background in early childhood I LOVED books, especially pictures books but never picked up Harry Potter. My fellow librarians asked me something about Harry Potter. I completely shocked them when I announced that I had never read the books nor have I seen the movies! I felt such shame!! I IMMEDIATELY grabbed the first book and read it that night at home! I. LOVED. IT!!

    My then 7 year old daughter was a huge book worm. But the size of the books scared her. We decided to do an audiobook on a family vacation. My (non reader) husband my daughter and stepdaughter all listened to Jim Dale’s wonderful narration.

    Since then, we have listened to all of the books, purchased the books and had many Harry Potter movie marathons. We had a WONDERFUL time in Orlando at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The girls are redecorating their room to be “wizard like” having Harry Potter birthday parties.

    We have also introduced Harry Potter to my 4 nephews……

    We are waiting eagerly for Friday…..I’m with ya, and I can’t make it through the midnight showing. They will have to go on Friday, dressed up with their wands from Olivander’s and their Butterbeer mugs!

  2. My HP history is long, much like yours. I didn’t hear word one about the books until I moved out of my small, podunk Texas hometown– and that wasn’t until Goblet of Fire was just about released.

    Our family situation had changed drastically, and I had a long summer ahead of me in an unfamiliar place. My aunt suggested reading Harry Potter– she was reading aloud to one of her daughters– and so I did, even though I figured it would be lame.

    I was wrong.

    We shared Goblet of Fire in shifts, reading one copy through our entire 8-person family. When Order of the Phoenix came out, my sisters and I attended midnight release. We bought two copies.

    Overall, the Harry Potter experience has been a family one. I’m known as the resident trivia expert, but we all love to read and reread the stories as the years pass. HP novels always make me wish it was winter– in fact, they are the only thing– and I often imagine myself bundled in robes, reading a book on the Hogwarts Express or writing letters on parchment from Gryffindor tower. I’m 27, but I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of it.

    I’m sad the final movie is really here. That means the journey is over. I will sorely miss that anticipation of what comes next.

  3. My girls all love Harry Potter–went to the same HS as this blog owner. We even have a copy of the first book in Spanish! I’m not sure how many copies of which books we own–with 3 readers and a mom, we had fights over them! I do know that the books WERE read in less than 8 hours when they first came out–and I just re-read books 6 and 7. I realized that I had read them so fast–just to see what happened–that I didn’t know key things. So I have read them again–slowly–and reminded myself just how wonderful they are. We did 2 release parties–I took them once and best friend took them once. We had the book shipped to us on vacation once–no stores around to get it! Fanfic is big here but I don’t know if anyone is going to see the final movie or if we’ll wait and watch it together on DVD. Have to see!

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