The unshakable nostalgia of Harry Potter for a generation of fans

“After all this time?” “Always.”
“After all this time?” “Always.”
Image: AP Images/Clark Jones/Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.
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On July 21, 2007, the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released worldwide.

In New York City, Scholastic—the company that publishes the Harry Potter books in the United States—threw an epic block party to commemorate the occasion. Prince Street was closed for several blocks in lower Manhattan. I know this because I was there, a 17-year-old self-described super fan wearing a heather grey “Hogwarts Tonsil Hockey Team” t-shirt. (Cringe).

Image for article titled The unshakable nostalgia of Harry Potter for a generation of fans
Image: AP Images/Clark Jones/Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

The event featured a life-sized Whomping Willow complete with a replica of the enchanted (but ramshackle) Ford Anglia that Mr. Weasley crashed into the violent plant in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. On a giant “Magic Muggleboard,” fans left messages on golden strips of cardboard like: “Does Hogwarts have a grad school?!” and “Sirius black is HOT” and “Thanks for growing up with me, Harry… I’ll miss you.”

Mine was succinct: “RIP Cedric.”

A huge digital clock above the store on Broadway tracked the minutes left until the book was released at midnight. My friends and I tearfully counted down the seconds like it was New Years Eve. We were so excited to get our hands on the final book, and yet, as one of my friends yelled out, “We’re literally counting down to the end of our childhood.”

We laughed off the connection at the time, but the prognosis was apt. We had all just finished our first year of college, separating from the safety of our close-knit high school friend group. Several of us, myself included, had left New York for the first time. Over the years, many of these friendships dwindled or broke completely—but at least in my life, Harry Potter remained a constant.

Through bad breakups and family loss, I followed unlikely hero Neville Longbottom in his search to kill Nagini, the poisonous snake and final horcrux standing between Harry and Lord Voldemort. During periods of stress and anxiety, I relived Harry’s first Potions class with Professor Snape.

Even on inauguration day, as newly-elected president Donald Trump spoke of “American carnage” to a deeply divided public from the steps of the US capitol, one viral tweet caught my eye:

I couldn’t help myself. I tweeted that message to the author herself, adding: “Paging @jk_rowling… what happens next?”

Two minutes later, she responded: “Bad stuff happens. Then the good guys win.”

For the first time following a chaotic election, I felt relieved. That night, I picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the first time in years.

Today, for those of us who were close to Harry’s age when the books came out, the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the first book’s release is in many ways a celebration of our own childhoods. It feels somewhat painful, but still comforting to remember the years spent connecting with a world of alchemy and mischief, where life wasn’t at all fair but magic could tip the scales in your favor—and where good ultimately triumphs over evil.