Among the great many labels I live with, sometimes proudly and sometimes not – skinny, little, cattish, chicken-ish – there is one I will always keep closest to my heart: I am a Hufflepuff. Not because it is cool to oppose the regular or because I am clinging onto my past; no, I have been raised to be one, that’s what I grew up to be and that is what I am sticking with. And I bet many of you have a label like this as well – though surely not Hufflepuff as well – and that many of you found your home and comfort in being part of one of the four Hogwarts groups. And that is because we were all raised by Harry Potter.
I was seven when the first Harry Potter book came out. My copy of The Philosopher’s Stone is so old and faded by the sun, and being read from so many times, that I am amazed that it has not fallen apart during all this time. There is a little detail about this edition, that always makes me smile, every time I read it – Sirius Black is called Syriusz Czarny in my one, the only one of all the main characters to have his name translated in the Polish version, because the translator couldn’t have known he would appear in the books again or be of any significance whatsoever. This, of course, has been corrected in The Prisoner of Azkaban and the following editions of The Philosopher’s Stone, but my book remains… different. Mine.
I didn’t spend my childhood waiting for the Hogwarts admittance letter to arrive, as I had never been that sweet, imaginative type – my mother says I was born old and bitter. But I had friends who did. Who spent their days running around the forest nearby our school, wielding sticks and screaming their lungs out with spells and incantations. If we can believe Tumblr about anything, most of us waited and most of us were heartbroken on our 11th birthday. Some of us never recovered.
My personal dream of opening the gates of Hogwarts did fulfill itself though; I was lucky enough to do so at The Harry Potter experience thing over in Watford. The face of the guy who was helping me by pulling open the gate on the other side was priceless – surely he was there to help kids that would struggle with a gate so heavy. He didn’t expect someone my age to the one pushing! But that was the only way this could be resolved fairly. I waited half of my life for it. The little kiddos could wait few years longer.
Ok, maybe it was a tad selfish. A teeny tiny bit.
And these little details, little memories, my tiny magical bunnies that make Harry Potter so special. There are very few things in the world that would make me excited about movie props. Really. I am not a movie person. But this was just different, as pathetic as it may sound to some.
Quite a lot of good came out of Harry Potter for my generation and I. Sure, this could have been any book – but it wasn’t and we need to appreciate that we happened to get it. The amount of writing and reading I did as a result of Harry Potter is insane. The sheer amount of confidence to put out their work out to the public this book has brought to millions and millions of kids who just wanted to express themselves is even more insane. Harry Potter inspired and pushed so many very talented people to their limits. It gave them wings. Maybe, to some extent, it gave me wings too.
Because contrary to popular opinion, to me Harry Potter has always been the story of embracing one’s limitations. Wizards, even those as powerful as Dumbledore, are all just humans – and cannot perform even nearly as impressive tasks as many other wizards of literature. Dumbledore makes mistakes. He struggles. And from understanding what he cannot do and what cannot be done, he draws most of his power.
And for one little girl in Poland, this was a very powerful message. All other books talked about overcoming who I was, of reaching beyond my limits. Harry Potter has always talked about achieving what we want by embracing who we are, and not worrying about what we are not. Without stressing too much about what ifs. Without beating ourselves up over things that simply cannot happen.
A liberating thought, isn’t it?
But at the end of the day I think the most powerful thing about Harry Potter is how weirdly united people are though it, even all these years later. It has become our common secret, an inside joke we all share about a common experience. We, the children raised by Harry Potter, will never be true strangers – because we shared a childhood together. A friend that was there for us when we were sick or grounded, or bored on a rainy day.
We will always be able to just ask each other which Hogwarts house we belong to and that will tell us more about each other than others would suspect. And we do. I still feel awkward around people my age who cannot answer this question – maybe because, as weird as it sounds, they do not belong to us, not in the same sense anyway.
They are not part of the family.
Because that’s what we are, all of us, with our houses and spells and letters that never arrived. We all share a green-eyed cousin and a set of common memories, the entire world in which we lived and thrived once upon a time. We share a bond that cannot be explained and maybe because it is formed over something as silly as a set of books for kids, it is simply beautiful.
So maybe it is time to say: Thank you, Harry Potter. And although this journey ended a long time ago, somehow it will never end, ever, even without the countless spin-offs and plays and all other things that seem to have suddenly crawled into existence. Because Harry Potter lives in us, as pompous as it sounds. We carry his world in our tiny heads.
This all being said, please don’t spoil Cursed Child for me. I am still waiting to see it in July 2017.
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