That Ol’ Potter Magic

Tonight, after I get off work, I’ll be driving down to Irvine to wait in line for a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. There was a time when I didn’t think Hollywood would make all seven books into films, certainly not with the same set of actors. Looking at the pictures of the main characters then and now has been a bit of a shock – I feel old. Which is what happens when you start young. I began reading the books in 1999, but it was really two years after that that Harry Potter changed my life. How many people can say that about Twilight with a straight face?

Enamored with the magical world and stuck in what would be a three-year wait for Order of the Phoenix, I discovered fan fiction. A whole decade ago I wrote a 13-chapter piece about a psychic Mary Sue American transfer student who hooked up with Harry. I’m tempted to offer a prize to the person who finds it – it’s still online – but seeing as it’s terribly written, I’m not sure I should encourage people to read it. My reputation might never recover.

It was at this time that high school started to suck as only high school can. Many of my closest friends went to another school and I spent nearly every lunch period of sophomore year in the school library alone. Up until that point, my greatest passion had been acting, but the nepotistic system in my school’s theater department meant that I was overlooked and outcast from performing, largely because I didn’t drink, smoke pot, or come from money.

I’m the first to admit, I’m still a little bitter.

But I had Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and thanks to the series about the boy wizard, I found an online community that got me through some tough times, occasionally made them worse, and ultimately made me a stronger writer, as well as a stronger person. I wrote more than a dozen fan stories over five years, using multiple internet pseudonyms to figure out who I was, improving my skills with a combination of my mother’s judicious grammar editing and my own increasing understanding of story. I probably wouldn’t have gotten a B.A. and M.P.W. in creative writing if it wasn’t for Harry. Maybe I should send J.K. Rowling the bill for my student loans; she can afford it.

I wasn’t satisfied with some of the films, or casting choices. I’ve made no secret of how much I dislike Steve Kloves’ screenwriting. But Harry Potter has made such a significant impact on my life, missing out on any part of the phenomenon just feels wrong.

So I am schlepping out to the the OC tonight, in order that I might share the culmination of this epic story with another person for whom Hogwarts is more than a fictitious boarding school in Scotland.  The person who – with HP Halloweens, midnight book parties, and her friendship – helped me make the last ten years pretty magical.

Thank you, Jeanette. There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other – and Harry Potter is one of them.

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