Harry Potter: The final spell, and how, with one wave of his wand, the boy wizard transfigured my life (Written 2010)

In 2016, I worked at ‘WHsmiths’ and helped with the launch of ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.’ Yes. That is me, dressed as Harry, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat (well, I’ve now done it twice, once for World Book Day!)

Unlike most, I used to despise the mere mention of Harry Potter. Hard to imagine now, but back when I knew nothing about it, I was filled with disgust and revulsion towards the boy wizard. In the school corridors, if anyone whispered the name, I shuddered! Thinking about this now, I can’t believe I actually thought that. Yet, this was my life back in the first year of secondary school. As a result, I can’t deny that as it is a part of my “Harry” history.

In the summer of 2000, Mum badgered me to read the series. I remember her saying something like “Come on, you’ll like it! Everyone else does! I don’t know why you won’t try it!” Reluctant, but desperate for Mum to stop talking about it, I picked up “The Philosopher’s Stone.” I recall the time when I read the first chapter and stopped when I saw that a cat was reading a map. I assumed that it didn’t make sense, and thought it was pathetic.

Then, in 2001, Mum and I were walking through a quiet Waitrose when she turned to me and said that we were going to see the first movie in the Harry Potter series. I was less than happy, but there was nothing I could do. She wanted to see it, and I had to accompany her. Heart heavy and frown prominent, I went along to the cinema in a huge mood.

After which, the theme music began: There was a small house and two owls sitting on the roof of Harry’s house. Curiosity invaded. Why was this happening? I wanted to know more! Now, I didn’t remember this next bit of information but apparently I leaned forward in my seat when the scarlet steam engine came into view, puffing almost silver smoke. My eyes widened, and my smile stretched as though it was made out of enchanted elastic bands. From that moment on, I was transfixed, and knew that this one film was going to change everything forever.

When I got to Dad’s that night, I started pacing my room and talking as if I was Hermione Granger. I was saying “I can’t like it, I can’t. I know this is going to turn into an obsession, I know it. I know it.” As it happened, it did…. but it turned out, this was the best thing that had ever happened to me.

Now, I won’t lie and say that I don’t sometimes put it to one side because it does have a tendency to overtake my life, but I really would not have it any other way.

As soon as I woke the next morning, I knew that the duration of this year was going to be daringly wonderful, and would consist of my running frantically (or should I say apparating) across unexplored grounds and I could not wait to start it. The first thing I had to do was pick up the book again and start reading it….. properly, so I did.

Having seen the film I no longer cursed angrily aloud why a cat was reading a map as I knew it was Professor McGonagall. I no longer disliked the name “Harry,” as it turned out the main character was a good-natured, likable soul who I immediately sympathised with, and I no longer did not understand why millions of children all around the world loved this book, and slept with it beside their bed.

I was one of them!

Now, I’m not going to embarrass this person by saying their name, but I got to meet my best friend through liking Harry. I was sat on the bus on the way to secondary school and I was wearing my new Gryffindor scarf. It was still 2002, and as such, I had a lot more to soak up about the most famous wizard- of-now-ten-years. At the time, my friend really liked “The Lord Of The Rings” but still admired Harry.

To this day, we have separated by way of interests, but she still likes watching the movies with me. So, I am not only relieved that I discovered Harry Potter because it turned out to be one of the best things in my life, but I am also incredibly grateful because it meant I had this connection with someone I never thought I would have.

In school hours, I spent most of my time writing. I would compose my own Harry Potter scripts eagerly waiting for the next film. There was not a second where you would not see me without a pen or pencil, scrabbling to tear off the next piece of lined paper in the classroom. If I think hard, I can remember the first script I wrote. It contained (as most of my stories do) an outline involving Draco, Harry, Hermione and Ron. It also revolved around Draco plotting to kill Harry (an old favourite of mine and a plot that I still thoroughly enjoy writing) It was set within the walls of a dark, shadowed Malfoy manor, and every time fifteen minutes before the bell would ring for the end of lunch, I would wish that I could keep on writing, forget lessons and keep pouring my heart into these few bits of paper. I also had a notebook that my friend had given me for my 17th Birthday, in which I kept many of my scribbles and essays concerning Harry.

I remember one particular day I sat down and decided to write what I thought was going to happen to each character in the preceding years. Looking back now, I did quite well! I think I guessed about 40 percent correct. In my scribbling I had predicted that Dumbledore would die but I had said in the fifth one, not the sixth.  

You have to remember also that in this year, all four books had already been out for a long time. I was lucky!

With my savings, I rushed down to my local Whsmith and bought one a day, reading and exhausting them into early hours.

Only a couple of memories return but I can picture them almost as vividly as if they had happened yesterday…

I was reading The Chamber Of Secrets for the first time. I was at the Polyjuice chapter. Harry and Ron were planning to get information out of Draco Malfoy about the heir of Slytherin. I was right in the middle of it and Mum called saying that dinner was ready. I think I picked that one because even now, I can feel the frustration that ebbed through my body as my mind had ticked away, “Just one more minute, oh please, one more minute.”

Another was my debut read of “The Prisoner of Azkaban.” It must have been about midnight when Lupin was shouting in the Shrieking Shack and Sirius was screaming at Harry. I was curled up in bed, fingers flicking through the pages as though they were on fire! What was going to happen? Would justice win in the end? Would Harry survive?! Mum knocked on my door and told me to go to sleep. I looked ready to kill. I had to wait until the morning!?

I think it was also this year when me and my friend discovered fanfiction. We were in the ICT suite talking about Harry Potter, and came across a site bursting with interesting information, including a story called “Draco Malfoy and the amazing boucing rat” by Cassandra.  We peered at the screen, leaning forward, both thinking the same thing.

Somebody had written a story with J.K. Rowling’s characters and created their own plot. It was so cool! We decided to do our own versions. I set to work on a plot with Draco as a psychotic Death-Eater, which ended up as my Death-Eater trilogy!

My writing (hopefully) has improved over the years but at the time it was around the quality of a dead Niffler. “Today was National Death-Eaters day. It was a day which all Death-Eaters enjoyed immensely.” I soon found out that writing fanfiction (however cheesy this might sound) was my secret calling. Every second that I spent typing at the old computer in my house were ones of contentment, ambition and success. Excitement stirred every time I wrote some interaction with Harry and Draco. To this day, I call fanfiction “Juggling characters.” Now, I know in the books Draco would probably not have the confidence, or be able to push away his conscience in order to kill Harry….. but it is so enjoyable when you write a few words and suddenly, he would do these things!

I wanted a broomstick by now and so marched into the shop and bought one. The embarrassment and awkwardness walking back was an experience that I will never forget. People looked at me with strange expressions. I didn’t care, I was so excited I had a broom. That afternoon, I went to Dad’s and asked him to paint the words “Nimbus 2001” onto it. At this stage, Draco was my favourite character. As soon as it was dried, I stared at it with so much admiration! Next came the hat. I really wished for my own wizard hat. At around 4.00pm, I was sat in the dining room at this long wooden table wearing my new hat. Me and Dad made it by creating a cardboard shape, stuffing newspaper down it and covering it with black felt. I tested out the experience by sitting down and acting out a part of the movie, just to check it came with the captivating power of imagination…. as well as being practical. It did, and I had such a good time.

It was in this same year that I watched SMTV Live religiously, picking up anything about the second film that was soon to be shown in cinemas all around the world. Tom Felton, Jamie Waylett and Joshua Herdman guest starred on the show and I wanted nothing more than to be there with them. I remember they had some really odd challenges and then each time one of the cast won a prize, the prize was to see an exclusive clip from the film. I recorded it, watched it again, and put it on the video shelf. I have never thrown it away because it holds too many memories for me. Little things like this are actually making me quite emotional as I reminisce on these stages in my Potter history. It was so long ago, but it could only have been an hour ago or a week back.

2003 was the start of the props. Even though I was writing fanfiction every day, bathing in the glorious light that Harry Potter brought every second, I still wanted more and as it turned out that came in the magical form of an idea. I thought to myself, why don’t I make some props like they have in the movies? Wracking my brains (which don’t take much time as there aren’t many) I thought about writing out the note that Hermione jots down when she saw the Basilisk, so I did. I think I still have it somewhere! I created Tom Riddle’s diary.

This was about the time when I wanted to start acting. Luckily I had an excuse to act and did so with my cousin. We used to do it all the time and one night when it was a really cold dark night in the summer we set up camp at the end of her garden and acted out Harry Potter all night. That was probably one of the best times in my life! Which brings me onto an equally best part of my life…… landing the part of an extra in the movie.

Another memory that has come back was when I sat through school in an achingly boring Science lesson in Secondary school. All I wanted to do was go back home and buy The Prisoner of Azkaban on DVD. As soon as I was off the bus, I splashed through puddles, ignoring the rain as it carried on and dashed into WHsmith. I queued up for my copy and suddenly sitting through double Science had all been worth it.

I relished the art of fanfiction. I read lots, I wrote lots, I embraced the magic. In March 2006, I actually became a member of www.harrypotterfanfiction.com and I now live there under the name, Snitchsista. I posted up all of the stories that I had written since the teeth of obsession had sank into me. There were 50 in total. Some were one chapter, others 40,000 words. One thing was certain….. I had entered a world where I completely belonged.

It was on this site that I was introduced to two of my close Potter friends, Rose and Craig. We reviewed each other’s stories, commented on member’s posts, read our new one shots and shared our lives through the magical messenger that is MSN. I was also an avid banner maker, creating works of inspiration on Photoshop for my stories listed on my official page.

Later on in the year, I wrote more and more. Even though the prospect of reviews was now second nature to me, receiving them once in a while sent me into a dizzying spin. These people, whoever they were in the world and wherever, had taken time out of their busy lives to sit down and write what they thought of my work. Words can’t describe the effect it had on me. I remember in the summer I was in the garden with an orange ice lolly and my pad of paper bringing ink to fantasy once more. Harry and the rest had gone on a Hogwarts trip to Italy. Once again, the times I spent outside on the patio immersed in that fictional existence were some of the best periods I could ever hope to have in my teenage years.

The next year I was awarded an honoured position for the dedication to the site. Anyone who knows me is aware that one of my ambitions is to be a voice-over artist, and so reading out stories on the site in different voices was like a dream come true. . .  I lived on that site and hearing that members on www.harrypotterfanfiction.com liked what I was doing nearly brought me to tears!

In 2008, I was exactly the same as I always had been. Nothing really stands out, apart from I just kept on writing and kept on Pottering. You’ll be pleased to know that I have reached the end of my essay. . .  but not the end of my Potterness.

Coming up…. more essays on Potter. I wrote loads, seems a shame to let them collect dust!

PS, I just found my filming diary from being on the set of the sixth movie (time to edit that other post, I think!)

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