Despite the fact that my attachments to the Harry Potter movies were cursory, at best, and despite the fact that I’ve spent the past few years of my life basically purging myself from my love of Harry Potter – or at least, from any manifestation of that love that could bring its author any money, I gave in to the curiosity of the reunion. I might not have if the three actors at the center of it, Daniel, Emma, and Rupert, hadn’t categorically denounced JK Rowling’s hateful rhetoric. In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn’t have anyway. But I did.
Looking back, it’s so hard to really let go of something that made up so much of your personality as a teenager. I realize this now, as an adult.
You name it, I experienced it. Fanfiction, message boards, flying to another country to meet up with friends and attend fandom events, watch movies/read books together. And yes, the fandom shaped me. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it brought wonderful people into my life. People I can probably never thank enough.
I especially remember discussing the books with my father. He was, after all, the one who insisted we should read them in the first place. And like any childhood memory that includes my father, I hold on dearly to those conversations, since my dad isn’t around to have any new ones, to obsess over any new books.
My dad would have never pushed for the books if he’d known what a hypocrite its author was. But that’s neither here nor there. Or I guess it is, in the sense that I learned that lesson from both him and my mom. Fond memories aren’t more important than actual people being harmed by JK Rowling’s words.
And yet, even though my actions in fandom or with my father didn’t specifically benefit Rowling, and despite the fact that the reunion special itself was mostly focused on the actors, and did its best to erase her from the narrative, watching it and thinking back to the books and movies, it made one thing clear: the magic is not there anymore. Yes, there’s some level of nostalgia, but Rowling has ruined enough that I don’t even want to call myself a Harry Potter fan anymore.
Hogwarts doesn’t feel like home to me.
Perhaps a few years ago I would have cried through the Harry Potter reunion special. In 2022, however, things were different. All I could think about was how the person who created all the stories and the messages my childhood self took to heart, never meant them the way I interpreted them. That when she said “all” she only meant “all those I consider equal.”
It doesn’t even hurt anymore. There’s enough detachment to be able to look at a special that’s about a set of movies and enjoy the actors. This is particularly true of Daniel, Emma, and Rupert, and what they brought to characters that helped shape me. If anything in the special made me emotional it was seeing the three of them. Seeing them as adults who were once kids we grew up with. And, of course, seeing them get emotional at talking not about the characters, but the experiences they had, together.
Because that’s what I’ll take from Harry Potter. That’s what I never want to forget or lose, despite my dislike of the author. I want to forever remember the friends I made. The people who opened their homes to me. The ones who invited me to their wedding. To remember the fanfic I wrote, and the beta reader without whom I wouldn’t be the writer I am today. I never want to let go of the friend who spoke German to my Spanish, or forget the way we learned to communicate in English only because we found common ground in the books.
And I also want to remember the friend who once went out of her way to have lunch with me at an airport when I had a long layover. Plus the one who took in a kid two decades younger than her and treated her like another one of her kids, while at the same time treating her like a friend. I want to carry with me the ones who were almost like sisters to me. And I want to remember that friend who explained that one fanfic to me and shared both his wine and room so I could afford a trip.
Like Dan, Rupert and Emma, that’s the important part of the Harry Potter experience for me. Not the characters, the story, or even the message. It’s the people. And they are the reason why, even all these years later, I’m still grateful for Harry Potter.
We kept the best part. JK Rowling can take the rest. It doesn’t matter anymore.
The Harry Potter 20th anniversary reunion is available to stream on HBO Max.