My first memory of Harry Potter was my Dad reading the Philosopher’s Stone to me, on holiday in Wales. I was seven. The same holiday that I first won Cluedo (as Miss Scarlet) and my sister threw my brother’s equivalent of a teddy – a homemade creation called Humpty – out of the window in a rage, never to be seen again. Dad does excellent voices – I especially remember his Dumbledore, eyebrows raised, his voice soft and clipped. My father has quite bushy eyebrows, which certainly lend themselves to wizard impressions. We had the edition of Philosopher’s Stone with Nicholas Flamel on the back cover. For some reason, I wrongly assumed it was Professor Flitwick, an impression that lasted for more years I would care to mention.
Dad would read the first three books to me before my mania for the whole Potter world overtook his paternal instincts. I have been badgering him to read the rest of them for years, but as yet he has resisted the temptation.
As the Philosophers’ Stone entered my little world when I was so young, it was perhaps inevitable that the books would become an important part of my childhood. They were omnipresent, just always around.
I remember reading the last book just as well as listening to my Dad reading me the first – again, on a family holiday. This time it was Cornwall, in a tiny little brick house by the sea, which looked curiously similar in form to a public toilet. I was fifteen. We’d set off for Cornwall the day the Deathly Hallows came out, so I had to buy it on the way – from a Tesco’s, I think, at a service station. I dithered. For the first time, I looked at the children’s edition, and thought it looked too childish. The adult edition was mysterious looking, a little gothic. I think at that particular time in my life I also wanted to look mysterious looking and a little gothic. But I’d always bought the children’s one – it was tradition. In the end it was the adult edition I ended up with. It was a long drive down – there had been a lot of flooding and the roads were affected. I listened to a lot of Muse on my CD player and brooded in the back seat in a way only teenagers can.
For some reason, I didn’t read it during the drive. Perhaps I wanted to save it. But that night I sat on my bed in the holiday house and began, and I finished about 3am. I don’t remember if I cried, but I do recall my heart doing some considerable leaps and bounds re: Severus Snape.
Ten years have gone by since then, and I still love Harry Potter. Perhaps because it’s inextricably linked with my childhood? After all, nostalgia is a very strong feeling. And isn’t your childhood imagination more easily immersed, your memories less forgettable? The films, of course, have helped with this emotional investment. The Philosopher’s Stone came to our screens when I was 9; the Death Hallows Part 2 I watched during my first year of University, when I was 19. Is it any wonder that I still feel attached to it now? I remember walking around town and seeing posters for the last film on bus-stops – generally one of main three characters with the words ‘It All Ends.’ And it pulled at me, because it was the same sort of feeling that I’d felt when I left my secondary school, where I had spent seven happy years, and when I realised that we’d never have a proper family holiday again – not with us all playing and the deep heat of the tarpaulin that we always had at the beach and the car being full of family. Something was ending that had always been around, something that I’d taken for granted.
Of course, I still revel in it. The books are still there, I have the films too, and I’ve been to (and welled up at) the Studio Tour. The immersion of oneself in a world is a great joy. Like so many things, it’s importance rises and wanes. Sometimes I am giddy with the excitement of it all; learning a new detail, or rediscovering something – “I’d forgotten all about Spinner’s End!” Sometimes other things grab my attention. But Harry Potter is a part of my small history, and I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of reading it, remembering it, revelling in it.
Written by a proud Slytherin who prowls the corridors of Rugby Library.
If you want to read them in order: