July 15th 2021 marked ten years since the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and an end to one of the world’s biggest film franchises. It was indeed a fitting final chapter to such a magical story, but another, more subtle chapter came to an end that day: my adolescence. I’ve been an avid lover of Harry Potter and the Wizarding World for as long as I can remember. My dad was the one who introduced me to the films; I was ten or eleven, I think, when I sat down with my family to watch our nightly movie and he put Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on. At the time, I’m pretty sure I was thinking: what is this? I’m a strange contradiction when it comes to films: I love so many, but when people other than myself suggest new ones to watch, I’m usually a bit hesitant. Since that night, the rest is history, kind of. Well, my history, at least. I’ve grown up alongside Harry and Ron and Hermione since then and honestly, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
I’ve reached an age now, where I know how much of my personality is silent and lonely; I’m not sure why I’ve grown to become this way, especially since my mom always tells me how outgoing I was as a kid. Lots of stuff happened, like peer pressure, body issues, grief and heartbreak, stress, nothing new but everything that can hurt when you enter middle school and high school and even university. I guess instead of escaping into realms that were loud and rebellious like parties, boyfriends and the mall, I gravitated towards quieter, more personal things. When confronted with something bad or sad, I tend to seek an escape. I look for places, people, music, stories, that remind me of myself but also feel like home. And Harry Potter was the first true home that wasn’t actually home that came along and I suppose I clung to it like a lifeline. Some people grow ashamed when they look back at what they liked when they were young (*cough* Twilight *cough*) but I’ve never been embarrassed about it. Probably sounds a tad cliché but I don’t really care when I say that Harry Potter always felt – feels – different. I was introduced to characters that I could see so much of myself in like Draco Malfoy, as well those I could admire and look up to, like Hermione. The Wizarding World is such a big place, and it offered up – it still offers – so many adventures. It’s hard to describe but you know those moments that you just feel safe? Welcomed? That’s what Harry Potter is to me.
I’ve always struggled with self-esteem, and it’s grown into a more tangible thing the older I’ve gotten, which seems backwards and I can’t explain exactly how that happened but it did. Most days, I don’t like leaving the house, not because I don’t want to go outside but because I get really anxious about things. I always feel like people are looking at me and judging me. I become hyper aware about my clothes, my hair, the fact that I wear glasses, whether I have a pimple on my forehead, even how I’m walking. It’s ridiculous I know, but hey. I worry about what I say, what others will think. I don’t want to go anywhere new and potentially embarrass myself, I don’t want to meet anyone and have them think about how ugly I am, or whether I’m in someone’s way. But books and films and the stories within them – particularly these stories – have enabled me to travel all over the world, to ones that don’t exist and all those feelings disappear as soon as I flip over the first page or the first scene begins.
Being the biggest literature nerd that I know, I must admit, I watched the first few Potter films before I started reading the books. I know, I know, I’m such a hypocrite (!) but I’m a firm believer that you find things when you need them. At least, that’s how it feels to me. In some ways, 2021 has been so much harder for me than 2020 has, but I’ve stumbled upon BTS this year and their music has gotten me through some really low days. When my dad was sick in the hospital a few years back, I had One Direction. And when I was kid, I found Harry Potter. In fact, I still gravitate back to it and there’s no doubt in my mind that I will keep revisiting that story. It’s like a warm bear hug. A good kind of drug. Arms that are always wide open and waiting for me. Inviting me and letting me know that for even a little while, I can leave all the shit of life behind and just be. Be happy. I heard somewhere that if a friendship lasts seven years or more, then you’re friends for life. I don’t know if that’s strictly true, but in this case, it most definitely is. I’m twenty-five now, and the golden trio are still there. They give me back that adolescent nostalgia that always hurts yet I love so much. And I don’t really give two shits that they’re fictional and don’t technically exist. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is how something can make you feel and the happiness it can give you.
Harry Potter has both given me and been with me through a lot of firsts in my life. However controversial JK Rowling is now, she, and Emma Watson were my first real role models. I wrote my first fan letter to Miss Watson. In fact, I still have the autograph she sent back hanging on my wall to this day. Though my parents, especially my dad, cultivated my love of books, JK Rowling was the first writer who I looked up to. She was the first one who showed me it was possible to dream and make a living that way. Nobody would give her a chance when she was trying to change her life. The words she fits together are absolutely beautiful, and she taught me a lot about perseverance, that my stories are valuable and, at the very least, how to make a sentence visually and mentally stimulating. Visiting the Wizarding World was one of the first things I wrote down when I decided to make a bucket list. Harry Potter has seen me through last-minute Halloween costumes, running around on the playground with my friends, on days when I was sick in bed, and whenever the sadness gets too much, my sister can just put in one of the films and we can sit together and things just start to look better once it starts. My first tattoo was even a quote from The Half-Blood Prince and I literally can’t do anything without seeing it (since it’s on my wrist). It’s a fantastic, and, literally a permanent reminder to keep going.
“We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on.”Albus Dumbledore
I guess what I’m trying to say, in a long-winded way, is that Harry Potter isn’t just a film series. It’s something new yet something so familiar every time I watch it. It’s a best friend and an old friend. It’s a blanket that I can wrap myself in. It’s a promise of excitement and wonder, of falling in love and grieving over what I’ve lost or the person I could’ve been.
I’m sure however heartfelt this is, others might think I’m immature. I mean, getting caught up in a fake world? Grow up. Hogwarts houses? Come on. But everyone copes differently. Being able to wander in imaginary worlds is just one of those ways. And I am a very proud Slytherin and no one can take that away from me! Hell, I’m prouder of my house than I am regarding my country at the Olympics. Not many people truly understand any of this, why I love what I love and how it helps me but that’s fine. It doesn’t have to make sense to them. I know Harry Potter has touched millions of hearts, but it feels like something that was made just for me.
When the final film was released, I practically dragged my family to the theatre (we saw it in IMAX, of course) and I cried when it started, cried when Harry went to the Forbidden Forest to sacrifice himself and I cried when it ended. What I wouldn’t give to experience that for the first time again. It felt surreal, and as much as I wanted to finish this journey with Harry and Ron and Hermione, I didn’t want it to end either. I was almost sixteen then, almost done with high school, pretty much a full-blown teenager. Retrospectively, I wasn’t officially a kid any more. I grew up like Harry did; we grew up together. It makes me a bit melancholic sometimes, when I think about it for too long, but I guess that’s what made that era so special: is that it did come to an end. And even though Harry Potter is still very much a part of my life, it has taken on a bit of a different role now and that’s okay. Rather than guide me into adulthood, it’s evolved into more of a steadfast companion. It sounds silly but even though the plot itself is constant, it’s dynamic in that I notice a new detail, pick up on a new joke, appreciate a shot of cinematography, or interpret the soundtrack slightly differently each time I watch it. And the Wizarding World is always expanding and I have no doubt that it’ll expand and change right along with me, however I need it to.
I guess that’s why they call it magic.
by Kacy Hogg
Kacy is an English Lit student living in the Great White North (no not Winterfell unfortunately), Canada. Her favourite films include the Harry Potter series, Cinderella, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Hangover, and Lady Bird. She’s also an avid binge-watcher of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. You can follow her on Twitter here: @KacHogg95