“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
I took my kids to see the last Harry Potter movie this afternoon. I enjoyed the movie, and yes, I cried. But I don’t entirely relate to the Harry Potter fans who are choked up because they feel like this weekend marks the end of an era.
It’s not that I’m not sentimental; I’ve been known to cry during Folgers coffee commercials. And it’s not because I love the series any less. In fact, quite the contrary. I was at every midnight book release, and I quote Albus Dumbledore with great regularity.
But I said my goodbyes to Harry Potter four summers ago…on July 21, 2007, to be exact, the day I attended a midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at our local bookstore. For me, that was the final chapter, the bittersweet moment when I held the last book in my hands after waiting in a long, lone line, and knew that within a day or two of hungry page-turning, the story would be over. That was the night I shed my Harry Potter tears, sad tears because I didn’t want to turn that last page, and thankful tears, that I was able to read and love this series with my kids, that J.K. Rowling brought Harry and his friends into our lives and onto our living room couch, cuddled up in shared story for so many nights.
For me, the magic was all in the books. The amazing, imaginative, laugh-out-loud, sob-until-my-throat hurt, stay-up-all-night-reading books. The movies? I liked them a lot; I really did. It was fascinating to see how Hollywood producers tackled the issues of creating an on-screen world that already felt so real to so many.
In seeing the eight movies that grew out of J.K. Rowling’s series, I gained a new appreciation for the challenges faced in turning a beloved book into a film, but I also lost something – the characters that existed in my mind before Hollywood replaced them with actors and actresses.
Now, when I imagine Harry Potter, no matter how hard I try to take myself back to 1997, when I first read Sorcerer’s Stone, it’s Daniel Radcliffe’s face that comes to mind. I have a dim memory of a Hermione who looked a lot geekier and not quite as pretty as Emma Watson. And Dumbledore? My original image of the headmaster I love gave way to the distinguished face of Richard Harris, and later, Michael Gambon. All amazing actors. All talented professionals who no doubt love the story and who really did justice to their roles.
But they’re still not my Harry. My Hermione. My Dumbledore.
I liked the movies; I really did. But they felt like just movies to me – good ones, to be sure – but movies. The books? They felt real.