Harry’s been with me my full life, well almost. From the moment that my dad read me that first book it seemed that Harry Potter was as much a part of my family as my sister. In fact early on I guess he was the brother I always wanted her to be. Harry and all his friends were what we played at in the playground, twigs making do for wands. We split ourselves into houses and staged mass battles across the asphalt and grass that was our Hogwarts. Fancy dress days meant hundreds of Harry Potters, all with glasses cloaks and wands along with the required scar applied with your mother’s makeup. We all wanted to be Harry, although there was the smattering of Hermione’s among the girls. Josh was always Ron, well the red hair meant it was inevitable.
My dad bored with the usual books aimed at the average four year old first read Harry Potter to me. I’ve a lot to be thankful to him for, but the way he gave me books and literature must be the best gift he left me. In his way he was Hagrid, keeper of the keys. When I imagined Hagrid in the books, the voice and look were my father. I was always Harry Potter and that summer we played the parts to the full. I was lucky that I got the first two books read to me. Each night I struggled to stay awake as my dad put on his voices and brought the magical universe to life in my head. I wanted to be Harry, I wanted to go to Hogwarts. At four anything was possible.
The first book I read to myself, well the first chapter anyway was The Prisoner of Azkaban. We’d been somewhere for the day and as always the trip included a visit to a bookshop. I remember plainly seeing the book on the shelf, even though I didn’t remember the place. I hung around expectantly and was finally told it was OK, I could have it. That night I got home and sat with the book. I was about five and hadn’t read anything more taxing than the Roman Beanfeast. I struggled with the the first page. Dad was at work the next day, it must have been the school holidays, and I spent most of the day reading the first chapter. Then at night ‘Hagrid’ read it to me and brought the tale alive. Throughout the summer I read a chapter each day, understanding the words more and at night I lay there whilst it was again brought to life.
The films came out and I attended them dressed in character. I was Harry, the boy who lived. Boy did I live. When the cult of Potter hit the school as a whole I was disappointed. Before I was one of a select band that had experienced this wonderful world. Now it was like it was full of tourists. Everyone was a Potterhead and I wasn’t unique anymore. I almost turned away at that point, but you can’t keep a follower down for long. Suddenly I was popular, I knew what was going to happen. My love for the series grew. The launches of the books got bigger and We’d queue at midnight outside with the throngs of witches and wizards to get the book. We’d always buy two from that point.
The disappointment on my eleventh birthday when the owl didn’t arrive to give me my place at Hogwarts was real. My crush on Luna Lovegood kept me going but the life I wished for wasn’t there. I read all the books, we went to all the films. Sadly Dad didn’t survive to make the last film. I remember tears in my eyes as I watched those final scenes and thought how much I missed not having ‘Hagrid’ there with me. He’d been with me right from the start, encouraging my love of reading with this wonderful universe. JK Rowling may have created Harry Potter and his universe, but it was my ‘Hagrid’ that brought to life in my head. He knew the ending of course, but it was sad that the end of it all missed him by so little. He never got to go the studios which was sad, he would have loved to be dressed as Hagrid there.
So as Harry turns 20, I raise a glass to JK for this amazing story and remember all the good that came out of this series. It taught me to read, forged a bond with my dad and gave me so much more. No book or series has invaded my life with such a devastating effect. I thank every word of that amazing series.