The tears are still drying on my face and I have spent the last half an hour spacing out and returning to it in my mind. This seems as good a time as any to share my feelings about the Harry Potter series; I have just finished my second read through of the books.
As I felt the first time, I am a little saddened that I didn’t start reading them earlier, especially with my mania for books. I was 24 the first time I read them. I missed out on opportunities to discuss them with my friends while they were discovering them, to be part of a midnight release. I missed out on growing up with these books. I know my friends enjoyed ageing with the books (in terms of release dates, Harry etc were my generation’s age, but not for the actual timeline).
I admit my mistake, popular things aren’t always a fad and making up my own mind is important. Harry Potter wasn’t the only thing I avoided because it was popular and later regretted.
From here on out we are in a spoiler zone! Read on at your peril. I also know that a lot of people out there have said these things before, but hey, I’ve only just hopped on the Hogwarts Express!
I love children’s books, and reread my old favourites between new reads. Potter is now of course on that list. As I’ve only read them twice I’m not sure I have a clear favourite yet although I think it may be Deathly Hallows. The reason? The big Snape reveal.
Professor Snape is my favourite character, I knew that the first time around. He is arguably the most interesting, flawed, brave, weird one of the lot. His mystery and the good/evil unknown are well played. As someone who was bullied for being “weird” at school, whose social awkwardness was beyond, he has traits I can identify with. Not the creepy, homicidal ones, I hasten to add.
Sadly Snape didn’t repent quickly enough and paid the price. How he handled things thereafter is brave, but his flaws are still present. He is so human, so full of love. It’s tragic how a little kindness early on could have changed so much for him.
The first time round I sobbed for 15 minutes when he showed Dumbledore that his patronus was still a doe, “always”. His love was strong enough to produce a patronus at that sad moment, it still gave him joy “after all those years”.
Edit: In discussion with my brother about this as he thinks Neville and Snape being my favourites don’t go together (they don’t!). He thinks Snape isn’t very nice (which he isn’t). There’s an interesting article detailing the (many) flaws of Snape, some of which I think are down to maintaining double agent cover. However, this is exactly why he is my favourite, because discussions like this can happen! For the record, I think he did love Lily, but handled it very very badly. And I don’t think the good he did erases the bad. But I still think there’s a twisted kind of beauty in the way it all panned out.
I’m fond of Neville as well, another one who shows a lot of character development, although more quietly than the others. He’s a surprise, and a pleasant one at that. I found him more interesting on the second read because I knew how he was going to turn out. I liked paying more attention to these things, it’s built up a stronger picture of it all in my head.
The first time around I liked Sirius a lot more than the second (I had him down as my top favourite up until a point). Sirius was arrogant and carelessly unkind. He’s a good character though, and I LOVE Gary Oldman’s portrayal.
It is a brilliant thing that Dumbledore is not infallible, that he makes mistakes. There isn’t a single character who doesn’t, and they are the richer for it. A lot of people think that getting lots of riches (magic, in this case) will make life a lot easier/happier. These books show that even with magic, it’s the friendships and the actions which count the most, and bring the most joy.
Harry is, at the end of the day, an average wizard. It isn’t going to magic school which enriches his life over his muggle one with the Dursley’s, it’s the people, their ethics and what they choose to do.
The moments leading up to Harry’s “death” we see him trying to take everything in, to hold on, and to make the most of every beat his heart has left. He accepts his fate, and is grateful. He faces it with the support of those he loves, and it doesn’t matter how it turns out. That whole scene is an important lesson in itself, even as an adult it can be hard to remember these things sometimes.
Harry Potter are children’s books, but often these have much to teach us, because they are about growth, mistakes and learning, but in a very accessible way. There’s a joy to them, even in the sadness, that is often missing in adult literature. Like seeing the world for the first time, seeing it’s beauty, and exaggerating that.
Or maybe I just haven’t found the right grown up books yet! Either way, there’s a converted fan over here. The visit to the Harry Potter Studios, and a crazy “watch all the movies in one go” thing are liable to happen again in the not too distant future.