Magical because it’s the first of September. Very Magical because it’s 1st September 2017 and thus the day on which the epilogue of the the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows, is set. This means that my thoughts started off, this morning, at Kings Cross Platform 9 & 3/4 and are currently slowly drifted northwards towards Hogwarts, a castle in Scotland that those people without a belief in magic and the power of imagination will tell you doesn’t exist.
I don’t think I ever actually started or went back to school exactly on 1st September. I don’t remember doing so at any rate. But then for most of my school years the Harry Potter books were just a gleam in Jo Rowling’s eye and so the date didn’t have the same significance. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published on 26 June 1997 and I wasn’t introduced to the series until 1999, having the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets pushed into my hands by one of my university housemates (thank you Laura, you little star you!). I was rather lucky in that respect because having inhaled them both in the space of an afternoon (I read fast, the more I enjoy the book the faster I go) I didn’t have to wait long for the Prisoner of Azkaban to be released.
From there I was hooked. I didn’t go to any midnight book releases but I always made sure that my copy was pre-ordered and delivered the day of publication and read them that same day. I spent the night Goblet of Fire was released sitting in my then in-laws sitting room, reading frantically, finally finishing at two o’clock in the morning with tears still streaking my cheeks. I was on holiday in North Wales the Saturday Deathly Hallows came out (21 July 2007) and despite putting the B&B’s address in my pre-order, nearly missed getting it that day as the post had not come before we had to leave. However I spotted the post van pulled in to the side of the road as we drove towards Pwllheli and, screeching the car to a halt, leapt out and practically ambushed the poor postman. To his credit he only looked surprised for a few moments and then produced my parcel with a smile and an “enjoy your book”. I spent that day inside the boat house at Pwllheli marina, rather than on the water wakeboarding, and finished the book in four and a half hours with the assistance of several mugs of hot chocolate and plenty of tissues.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read the books, I lost count after about fifteen, and as well as my treasured hard copies, I have them all in e-book form and as audiobooks too. In fact I’m currently listening to The Goblet of Fire during my morning and evening commutes (this will be the fourth listen through to the series – I didn’t get the audiobooks until 2014) and it’s amazing just how much difference being transported to another world for an hour each working day makes to my happiness.
But Harry Potter didn’t just enliven my reading, it also introduced me to fan fiction. I didn’t write any of my own (or rather I didn’t write anything that I published on any fan fiction websites) but I consumed a great deal; delighting in the stories other fans shared for free filling the what seemed interminable gaps between the books and the yawning, ever expanding gulf once the series had ended. I still re-read a few of my favourite fan fics even now and one day I might even finish and share the “Book 8” I’ve been fiddling with, on and off, for the last ten years.
My attachment to Harry Potter has outlasted my marriage and – along with the Discworld, Sherlock Holmes, LoTR and the Arthurian Legends – has seen me through my darkest times and given me a point of commonality with people from every corner of the globe. I have a Hogwarts crest mug on my desk at work, Hogwarts house coasters in my living room and a copy of Hermione’s wand in my library. Harry Potter and the world he lives in has become a part of me in the same way that Discworld, Middle Earth and Tortall have.
So, on this very special 1st September I salute Jo Rowling, the Harry Potter books, and all the friends I have made because of them. I can’t imagine a life without any of them and I wouldn’t want to!