I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a while now, partially because of the 20th anniversary of the first book being this year, and because there are few other things in my life that have played such a strong role as this series has. It’s sat in my drafts for two months now, being added to piece by piece, but it’s finally coming together.
I don’t do a lot of posts that get personal. Things around here mostly stay focused on books and music, and while I make comments on other aspects of my life, they’re fairly generic things. Which is probably part of the reason that this post has taken me so long to get together, because it’s not so generic as my others.
This post is gonna get hella personal, because you can’t love a series for 18 years without some things going down. So strap yourselves in for a bit of a ride through some strange years of my life.
In the Beginning…
I got the first Harry Potter book for my 7th birthday from a friend. I had always been a big reader, but this was way back before people were really reading Harry Potter. It wasn’t cool yet (this would have been late ’98).
I really liked the idea of it, and my mum, sister, and I decided that we would read it together before bed (a much-loved tradition in our house). I think we made it four chapters in before giving up and starting something else, because things are a bit slow before Harry actually gets to Hogwarts.
Fast forward a few months, and I’m bored and we’re off school for March Break. Weather where I grew up sucks that time of year, so I decide to read to pass the time. I end up picking up Harry Potter. The beginning was as slow as I remembered, but once I got past that, I was hooked. I begged my mum to take me out to get the second book, and soon after the third, because I needed to know what happened next. Waiting for future books was torture for 8 year old me after devouring the first three, but I’ve always loved rereading, so that helped.
The following Halloween, I dressed up as Hermione for trick or treating. No one knew who I was supposed to be, and most hadn’t even heard of the books.
I was in fourth grade when the first movie came out. For the first time, someone else knew about the books that I’d been in love with for the past two years. In my class, I was the resident Harry Potter expert, which was cool. It was a little weird to share this world that had been my own for so long, but it was nice for a change, especially since it meant I was part of the crowd instead of on the side, doing my own thing.
Loved the first movie, and it only served to get me more hooked on the series, desperate for more of the story. At this point, my family didn’t have internet, so I couldn’t really go online and find out more, but at that time, I was content to just have my books and the movies as they came out. It was my escape from the island I grew up on.
The Things I Learned from Fan Fiction…
I discovered fan fiction when I was about thirteen. I was a part of the Meg Cabot Book Club, and writing tag team stories on there was one of the main activities. I’d always loved writing, but there was something so satisfying about putting your writing out there for people to read and comment on. Instant gratification and all that, even if the comments were negative. At least someone was reading it.
I started to get curious if this sort of writing existed for other books. Eventually, I came across fanfiction.net, and discovered the Harry Potter section. There was a point where I had read the vast majority of stories on there that followed my favourite pairings.
I wrote too. I pulled most of them down as I got older and tried to write more seriously, but there were lots of one-shots, lots of summer-at-the-Burrow stories, one imagining of what Deathly Hallows would be like, one where Hermione dies, amongst a few others. I have a lot of them saved on my computer, and am thankful that most haven’t seen the world since, especially those from my early teen years. They’re pretty bad.
Fan fiction was the world I needed. Where I could talk to people who wanted to do more than just talk about what already was and what might happen. We could reimagine whole relationships, we could mold the world to fit what we wanted, what we needed, and gave us constant access to the world we craved.
I ended up making friends through this, people I’d talk to on MSN messenger and write stories with. People who shared my interests, which was hard to come by in my small town. It made me feel a lot less alone in the world.
It also taught me grammar, how to write a damn good cliff hanger (the most important part of any fan fiction), and how to develop my own style. Stuff that school had tried and failed to teach me.
I wrote fan fiction on and off for about ten years. The last thing I posted was in 2013 (you can check it out here if you’re really curious. It’s the last thing I have still online), and I doubt I’ll go back to it now. But it was a huge part of my development as a writer, and how I ended up finding RPG, which will come up later in this post.
Things Get Serious for a Bit…
This is the hardest section of this to write, but I feel like it’s an important one, when it comes to these books. This is probably going to sound a mess, but I’m not good at talking about personal stuff, so it is what it is.
Junior high and high school were really lousy years for me. I had issues with eating, anxiety, and self-esteem. The first one was the worst, a bit more of a background issue from about 13 onwards, getting really bad when I was 18, and probably resulting in the latter two issues. On the worst days, I would remind myself that I hadn’t finished the series, or hadn’t seen all the movies, and that was often enough motivation to deal with whatever happened that day. I also wrote a lot of fan fiction during these periods, because it was easier to exist in that world than the one I actually lived in.
I won’t go so far as to say the books and the world saved my life, because I never hit that point. But sometimes, it was the one thing that could convince me to face another day, especially when I was trying to get my life back together and doing the whole normal eating thing again. Reading during meals helped a lot.
Yay coping methods!
Role Playing and That Whole Adventure…
In 2010, I was writing a fan fiction, and got a message from some random person about joining a role playing site they had created. I knew generally what role playing was, but the idea of playing on a forum was an entirely new concept. I created a character that was basically me, and played myself going to Hogwarts. The whole thing was a shit show and I think the site lasted three months before shutting down. It was a lot of RPG newbies, like myself, and I think it was doomed to fail from the beginning. But it had been fun.
I went off to university soon after this, and promptly forgot all about this. Not about Harry Potter, because it was a huge thing in my dormitory, especially as the seventh movie came out that year. But about RPG.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012. I had just officially moved out of my parents house, and was living in my university town for the summer before my third year. I was working in a copy centre, and while I had a few friends around town, most worked opposite schedules to me. So I had a lot of free time on my hands, especially since I had computer access in the copy centre and days could be slow. Remembering that I had enjoyed RP-ing that one summer, I decided to see if there were any active sites that I could join.
There were quite a few, once I started digging. I tried out a few, but some were too big, some were too confusing, some were more dead than they appeared. But it wasn’t as though I had something better to do with my evenings, so I kept searching.
Eventually, this led to Harry Potter Haven. It was reasonably sized in terms of handlers, it was easy to understand in terms of signing up, and it looked like it was actually just about writing characters and not all the other strange things I’d come across elsewhere. I made my first character, and spent a summer completely addicted to it.
I went back to school in the fall, and ended up too busy to get on regularly for about a year. During my final year of university (it was Dec. 2013), I remembered how much fun I’d had, and was procrastinating for exams, so I hopped back on there. I haven’t really left since. I’ve gone so far as to get my friend and university roommate completely addicted as well.
What I loved about fan fiction as a teen is what I love about RPG as an adult. It lets me explore my favourite book world, but instead of borrowing characters, now I create my own. You get the instant gratification of people responding to your characters, and you’re constantly improving your writing skills. We get to play with the new information that JKR releases about the wizarding world, and incorporate it into our own writing. It’s the most fun way of keeping my favourite series alive even as I get older. I experiment with a lot of different RPG sites, always Harry Potter, but I always end up coming back to the same one.
I currently have four active characters on there – Lia Ayres (who started as an 11 year old student and is now a prof), Annalise Martin (my little wild child), Emery Blythe (my drama queen), and Kota Morgan (my serious boy, who is routinely neglected by me) – and am waiting on a plot to start to add another to the list.
Incase you didn’t believe how hooked I am on this, I’m actually writing posts in between working on this. Not joking.
As an adult, Harry Potter plays a different role in my life. Aside from the RPG, it’s something that’s often used for nostalgia. I go back to the books because it reminds me of my younger years. I collect some merchandise, but not like I did when I was younger. I don’t read the books much anymore, unless it’s in a different language.
I will admit that when I use Bumble BFF (because making real life friends is hard), I will usually swipe right on someone if they mention loving Harry Potter. I also will not actively get to know anyone who says they don’t like the books.
My partner and I go see all the new movies. We don’t bother with the opening night thing anymore though.
Most of my conversations about Harry Potter these days relate to which houses people would be in. The theories and speculation about the next part of the story aren’t as exciting to me as they used to be. I don’t follow podcasts or wizard rock or parodies much these days either.
But I still love it, and always will. I’ll probably forever say that they’re my favourite books, and it’ll always be true. I’ve been on board with this series for 17 years now, and I’m not about to jump off now. I’m excited to see these new movies, and I’m loving all the new information coming out about the wizarding world. I can’t wait to see where these books go from here.