Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Growing up with Harry Potter: a fan’s reflection on the series’ twenty year anniversary


It’s weird to think I’m just slightly older than Harry Potter. It’s always been there for me, a sort of omnipresent thing in the background of my life, but I didn’t realize I was only a year and a half older than the first book.  

Looking back on it this past week, it makes sense. When I say Harry Potter has always been there for me, I mean it. Some of my earliest memories of my mother reading to me involve her sitting in my bed, reading Harry Potter. I was only four years old when she started. My sister was in sixth grade and “Sorcerer’s Stone” was on her reading list. Mom remembers there being some controversy about the pick but the school chose it anyway because all the kids were reading it. Mom read the book to see what it was about and my curious little self wanted to know too. So Mom and I read them “together” (i.e. she read them and I listened). 

It was those bedtime stories that made me want to learn how to read the books on my own. You see, my mom would do this thing where she would check to see if I had fallen asleep yet at the end of a chapter. If I had, she’d stop reading, mark the chapter she’d stopped at and leave. The problem was, I usually fell asleep in the middle of a chapter, and the next night mom would start where she had stopped, not where I had fallen asleep. 

So in order to know the whole story, I had to learn to read it on my own. Neither of us remembers exactly when reading “together” became reading together, but eventually, third and fourth grade me was carrying 600 to 800-page books in my backpack. By the time “Half-Blood Prince” was ready to come out, I was nine years old, all caught up and ready for my first midnight release party. I remember being surprised at how much smaller “Half-Blood Prince” was than the other books, and then I remember finishing it and being upset. For the first time, I couldn’t just pick up the next book. I had to wait two whole years. What was a girl to do? 

The answer, of course, was go see the next movie. Harry Potter was a lot of firsts for me. “Goblet of Fire” was the first movie I ever saw in a theater and “Deathly Hallows Part 1” was my first midnight showing of a movie. It was weird to think that after “Part 2” in 2011 there would be no more Harry Potter. As far as I’d known in my life, there was always more Harry Potter. And then in 2012, “Pottermore” arrived and my heart broke.  

You see, like any Potter fan, I’ve picked a house. For years, I had considered myself a Hufflepuff. “Just and loyal.. patient… and true” as the sorting hat describes them in the first novel. I’ve never been a daring adventurer like a Gryffindor or cunning like a Slytherin. Many a friend had tried to tell me I was a Ravenclaw, but I never felt witty enough and riddles aren’t my thing. So I planted my flag in Hufflepuff. After all the Sorting Hat takes your choice into consideration doesn’t it?  

The official Pottermore Sorting Hat begged to differ. Ravenclaw, it proclaimed at the end of the quiz. Some people said they were given a choice if their results put them on the fence, but the hat was sure for me – I was a Ravenclaw. 

How could I argue with the Pottermore sorting hat? This thing was created by J.K. Rowling. I already had a Hufflepuff scarf from a trip to Universal where I spent two days in “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” And that scarf wasn’t cheap. Was it all a waste?  

It was a full-blown identity crisis the likes of which no BuzzFeed quiz result could ever induce. I’d been so sure of my Hufflepuffness for so long. I wasn’t giving it up now. So I left Pottermore. I came back to it last year to see the new content for “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” and started a new account, and was sorted properly this time.  

This past year has been a bit of a Harry Potter revival for me. I’ve never been that person that rereads all the books or rewatches the movies. I know the world is always there, thoughts of it in the back of my mind. When I left for college, I packed the one set of the books my family had, without my mother’s knowledge, and took them with me. I still have them, too.  

I went to the midnight book release of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and read it in less than two days. It was the first Harry Potter book I bought with my own money. It wasn’t typical Harry Potter, but it wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling so I enjoyed it’s silliness and convoluted premise and passed it onto my Mom.  

Then in November, I went a saw a movie by myself for the first time. No one else was available to go to the “midnight” showing (it was at 7 p.m. like all first showings are now) but like hell I was going to miss seeing “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” right when it came out.   

I felt like I was a kid again. This was a wizarding world story I’d never read. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew who Newt Scamander was from his brief mentions in previous books and his field guide for which the movie is named, and I knew Gellert Grindelwald and his importance to Dumbledore and his obsession with the deathly hallows. Grindelwald would’ve gone down in history as the greatest dark wizard of all time, the seventh book said, if not for the arrival of Voldemort.  

But as I left the film, I was struck by how much more mature it was than the others. How much darker it had been. Then I started looking back through Deathly Hallows for Grindelwald’s parts and rereading “Sorcerer’s Stone” for the first time in years. Was “Fantastic Beasts” slightly darker? Yes, but not as much as I had thought.  

The difference was simply that I was older now. I saw in the text was I didn’t have the life experience to notice before. My childhood illusions of Dumbledore and the wiser, can-do-no-wrong mentor had evolved into seeing how deeply flawed his relationship with Harry was. Not as manipulative as the relationship between Graves and Credence in “Fantastic Beasts,” but there are echoes. This was a boy he trained for death.  

My understanding of how the Dursley’s treated Harry had gone from “bullying” to “abusive” and I grew older and learned. I no longer see Snape as a tragic hero. He was selfish and a grudge-holding bully. Love is no excuse to mistreat a child and be the follower of a tyrant.  

And that’s the truly wonderful thing about Harry Potter, as I’ve grown, it’s grown. It’s followed me through life, growing alongside me, always there when I want it and need it. There’s always something more to be found in the story and there’s always more story to be told.  

Over the years, my family’s copies of the books have worn, and I’ve had to replace a couple of them recently. The spine on the paperback of our original “Sorcerer’s Stone” is falling apart and the middle pages of “Chamber of Secrets” just fell off the spine a few years back. But there’s always more Harry Potter books on the shelf. The original seven are now joined by “Fantastic Beasts” along with a few little textbook tie-ins Rowling published. “Cursed Child” will join them once Mom gives it back to me.  

I only pull them out and read them once in a blue moon, but that’s not really the point. The point is they’re always there. A friend from high school I haven’t talked to in over a year texted me out of the blue the other day “What Hogwarts house would I be in,” she asked. I’ll always be one of those girls. The one’s who know everything about Harry Potter and can theorize and wax poetic about it. That’s the beauty of the series. You don’t have to remember every line of every novel to be one of those girls.  

I remember enough because it’s always been there. I’ve never been without the promise of more Potter for very long in my life. I wonder if I ever will be. Other interests and obsessions have come and gone, but Potter has always been my one constant fictional love. An ever-present friend, always there and ready to be picked up when I’m looking for it. 

More to Discover