I don’t feel sad that my childhood has ended. I’m happy that I got to spend it with Harry.
I have told my mother many times that I have two mothers in this world: her and J.K. Rowling. Both taught me to read. Both stood by me through all my triumphs and trials. And both made me the person I am today.
One of my favorite memories is of sitting in my mother’s lap, still able to fit in the cradle of her crossed legs, and stumbling over the words of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. We read it out loud together each night, a chapter at a time. When we started, I had just learned how to write my name and read a few sight words. When we finished, I snuck The Chamber of Secrets into my bed and read by the small band of light let in from the lamps outside my window, occasionally glancing up to see if Dumbledore was about to turn the streetlights off with his Deluminator. He never did, at least not while I was awake.
The rest of my childhood was spent with a Harry Potter book at arm’s reach. I read them over and over, always happy to find that Hogwarts was still there to welcome me home. I read The Goblet of Fire the summer I was ten, leaping from chair to chair in my living room for fear that Wormtail’s severed hand would reach out and grab me. I read The Order of the Phoenix the year my dad got sober for the first time, and re-read The Sorcerer’s Stone when he got sober again. I took The Chamber of Secrets with me to college, and found comfort between its pages when my mind collapsed around me and I suffered a mental breakdown that forced me to return home.
Right now, as I write this, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is perched on my bedside table, creased and worn by little fingers many times. The inside page has my name written in it, neatly lined in newly learned cursive that bears a striking resemblance to Hermione’s.
Also happening right now is the sorting of Harry Potter’s child, James. I know this because it is the first of September in 2015, the year James would be old enough to attend Hogwarts. I also know this because J.K. Rowling tweeted about it live. He’s been sorted into Gryffindor, his mother and father’s old house. I’m happy for him, although I, like Teddy Lupin, am partial to my own house of Hufflepuff. Hard work and loyalty can get you just as far as courage, maybe even a bit more.
When I saw Rowling’s tweet, I cried. It was immediate –– before I could wrap my head around the idea of tweeting about Hogwarts or let my gripes with Rowling’s obsession with amending a narrative that belongs to everyone get in the way –– I felt a sob in my chest. I was so happy and so sad because I knew what this meant. This meant that I had grown up.
I’ve been confronting my adulthood ever since it “happened”. I’ve had to pay bills and register to vote and save receipts for my taxes, but until today I hadn’t experienced the feeling of watching time pass in front of me, even if that time is fictional. Harry has kids now. Which means I’m not a kid now. I’m a grown up. I’m closer to teaching someone to read Harry Potter than I am to reading it for the first time.
For people who didn’t grow up with Harry Potter, the fanfare surrounding the series might be a hard concept to understand. It might seem strange that so many people have such strong emotional ties to a series of books about an orphaned kid who went to a weird school. But I don’t think people realize that for a lot of millennials, Harry Potter’s story was just as much ours as it was his. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are some of my closest childhood friends. It’s hard to know that my life will never be as closely linked with theirs as it was when I was a kid. It’s hard to see the things we love end, and to know that they bring the end of other things with them.
As I grew older, Harry did too. We did our growing up together. And now, it's very clear that we've both finished being kids. Seeing him grown up means that I am, too. I can’t tell you what year I’d be in at Hogwarts anymore because I would have graduated by now. I’m nineteen. Harry is even older. I don’t have his story to lean on anymore. Hogwarts has opened its doors to new students, and that isn’t something that I fear any longer. I’m so excited for the kids who are seeing Hogwarts for the first time –– kids who are James S. Potter’s age. I don’t feel sad that my childhood has ended. I’m happy that I got to spend it with Harry.
I’ll always keep him close, always check in with him and Hermione to make sure their stories are just as I left them. Hogwarts will always be home to me, and I know I can visit whenever I need to. But I don’t need Harry’s story to continue in order for mine to do the same. It’s been continuing all this time –– I just haven’t noticed. What a typical muggle thing of me to do, never seeing the magic that's all around me, even when it’s right under my nose.