Despite the fact I have been telling people for the past three years, “NO I’m NOT going to another midnight movie showing,” I have managed to see the last four Harry Potter movies at midnight opening night. I understand this places me in a certain circle of obsessed fandom, which I complete own up to. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that Harry always has, and apparently always will, convince me to stay up WAY past my normal bedtime (which those of you who know me is an INCREDIBLE feat). Like the hoards of Potter fans around the world, I have stayed up late feverishly reading each of the books, refusing to put it down until the very end. And last night, there I was again up late, anxiously awaiting the final film installment of the most beloved book series of my life.
I watched it like I read all of the books- alone. My friends were in the 3-D theatre, and being a purist where Harry is concerned, I chose to go with a different showing. But I was happy. I kept remembering how I read the 7th book the first time, moving from place to another in my house each time someone would find me and interrupt my reading. For this last movie, I was glad I could be alone with my memories, and not dissect the movie scene by scene with friends, lamenting the loss of favorite characters and lines.
It’s hard to explain this emotional attachment to someone who has not “grown up” with Harry like myself and thousands of other fans. My boyfriend, bless his heart, has never read even one of the books and has seen only bits and pieces of the first and second movies. I tried explaining to him why this was such an important part of childhood, but he didn’t get it. The books will always be an acclaimed children’s’ series (one which I fully intend on bequeathing to my children) but it is more than that for those of us who were there at the beginning. My fourth grad teacher read the first book out loud to us in class, and I knew I HAD to keep reading the series. At that point only the second and third books had been released, and I received all three for a Christmas or birthday gift that year. It was a LONG wait for the fourth book, which came out a week before my 10th birthday a year later. We were on a family road trip up the east coast and I had my nose buried in Potter while I visited New York City, Boston, and Plymouth rock. My parents were not very amused.
Three long years went by waiting for the fifth book to come out. Though I was 14, the age at which many pre-teens lose interest in childhood favorites, Harry was growing older too, a change which was reflected in the tone of the fifth, and for that matter sixth and seventh books. In the intervening years, the movies were being released, creating more anticipation for this other manifestation of the series. They aren’t the same, but it is still Harry.
I remember getting the sixth book most vividly. It was released the day after my 16th birthday, a year that most teenagers are hoping for drivers’ licenses and first cars. I, on the other hand, had my mom take me with my newly cashed birthday checks to the mall so I could get the freshly printed Potter volume. I couldn’t even wait to get home to begin reading. I sat on a bench,waiting for my mom’s mini-van, consuming the new, scary world Harry faced.
Finally, my senior year in high school came, which not only meant the end of teen-hood and time to leave home, but also the end of Harry’s story. Finally, I was allowed to attend one of the famous midnight book parties, where my boyfriend at the time bought the book. We took it back to my house, woke my younger sister and together the three of us huddled together while I read the first four chapters aloud until we were all to exhausted (and in my case, hoarse) to continue. The next day I read a borrowed copy, finishing by dinnertime, exhausted from crying for the ends of beloved characters and a beloved series.
The movies have been a wonderful way to extend the life of the series, in a medium that tries to match the beauty of Rowling’s printed word by the magic of cinematography. Four years in college and four movies later, I’m ready to say goodbye to Harry. My journey with the series is over as I leave for grad school and adult life. Though it has already been labelled as melodramatic to say so, this truly is the end of childhood. Now, delving in to once again reread the series will not be an escape into the world of fantasy, but a nostalgic remembrance of where I was during the first reading of each book, the first time I saw each movie. I’m at peace with this though. As the movie ended, I though of the last line of the book, “All was well.” And it is. J.K. Rowling has given a generation a beautiful story and wonderful memories. Cheers Jo, and thanks Harry.
Some lovely final thoughts from Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) in a letter to Empire magazine can be read here.