by Erin H.
I first met Harry Potter as an eight-year-old. I can still remember the rush of reading Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time: wondering why there were all the owls and strangely-dressed people in Chapter One; marveling at the first description of Dumbledore; and being as astounded as Harry was by Hagrid’s visit to the cabin at sea. It was a world of new and amazing people and things. I was astonished at all of Ron’s knowledge about the Wizarding World; I saw a bit of myself in Hermione; and I loathed Snape just as much as Harry. I wished I could try Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum and Chocolate Frogs. Most of all, I hoped that an owl would bring me a letter addressed in emerald green ink inviting me to Hogwarts, where I would change animals into objects, take care of baby dragons, and fly on broomsticks.
Since that first adventure into Harry’s world of magic and mischief, I’ve been hooked. My copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is well worn from eight years of use because, of course, its been read many more times than I can count. Still, with each installment of Harry’s adventures, I’ve become even more attached to the beloved tale. The ingenuity of Chamber of Secrets blew me away, and I rejoiced as Ginny was saved and Dobby was freed. In Prisoner of Azkaban, my heart swelled when Harry found both a friend and a piece of his father in Sirius. With the closing pages of Goblet of Fire, I shared Harry’s shock and fear; for Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, I shared his sadness and loss.
Anyone, young or old, whether they started the series last month or six years ago, is easily drawn into the “Potterverse” in this way. It’s nearly impossible for the characters not come to life, for readers not to share in the characters’ ups and downs; successes and failures, joys and sorrows.
However, for kids that have been with Harry since the beginning, there is an added layer of endearment: Harry’s tale has become a part of our own coming-of-age experience. If we started reading in elementary school, our imaginations and our eyes were opened to so many new things. Just like Harry, we met new friends, had new experiences and learned new lessons, and we simultaniously started becoming our own people.
By book four, we were in middle school, experiencing many of the same challenges as Harry. There were fights with friends and first crushes. We were reassured that Harry and Ron could patch things up, because it meant we could keep our friendships too. It was comforting that Harry, even with a magic wand, was just as miserable in dealing with Cho Chang as we were in dealing with the opposite gender. Just as Goblet of Fire can be seen as a turning point in the series, as readers, we faced the first big trials of our own lives. This fourth installment was the first time we realized Harry was destined for something truly grand and terrifying.
Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince arrived during our high school years, the time when we really became aware of the world around us; when we came to understand new things about ourselves and others; when half of what we did was a rebellion against our parents, schools, or anything expected of us. Certainly the same can be said of Harry. He fought against Umbridge and the Ministry, and refused to be a poster-boy for Scrimgeour. His relationships with Ron, Hermione, and Ginny mature and grow. He learned about his past, in order to understand his present and ascertain events that may lie in his future.
Most importantly, the end of Half-Blood Prince marks the end of Harry’s childhood. Arguably the most important line of the whole book, and even the series, is the following:
“I am not worried, Harry,” said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. “I am with you.”
(HBP, pg. 578, US Hardcover)
This was the point in time when we realized that Harry had truly become his own person, an adult wizard, capable of accomplishing the mission that has been set before him. When Dumbledore died, Harry’s final protector had left him. Now, the adult that he has proven himself to be must emerge to take a stand.
In our own lives, the end of high school does not mark the start of a dangerous journey in which we must face murderous wizards in order to save lives. Yet it is the first time we are out on our own, without our parents, in a new and unfamiliar world where we don’t really know what’s in store for us. If we look back on the example that Harry has provided us through his adventures in friendships, dating, fighting authority, and ultimately, discovering himself, we can be sure that the beginning of his adult journey in Deathly Hallows will provide us with the reassurance that we are not alone in the new world we are soon to face. Above all else, Harry will inspire us to the very end to always choose what is right over what is easy.