Returning to Hogwarts and Harry

Photo by JuniperPhoton on Unsplash

In case you haven’t seen the myriad headlines announcing that Harry Potter is coming back into theatres, you may have noticed the renaissance of JK Rowling’s famous book series in podcast series like Binge Mode: Harry Potter.

Why the sudden return?

Considering the upcoming and past releases of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies as well as the Cursed Child play opening on Broadway after a fantastic opening on the West End, the return isn’t really so sudden or unsurprising. Since Harry Potter’s entry into our world 20 years ago, the lives of readers everywhere were changed. With each successive movie and book release, the hype has gotten bigger. And the fan base has grown larger into something almost immeasurable. Conferences are held all around the world, charities created after a namesake within the book series ‘Lumos.’

Even returning to Hogwarts now has a real-life aspect to it. Fans can flock to Florida to visit Hogsmeade and Hogwarts or travel to England to go on the Studio Tour, and visit Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross Station. But visiting all of these places and rewatching movies only brings so much of that magic back. To really remind yourself of that first time you learned about magic and wondering with Harry who would be writing to him in the Cupboard Under the Stairs, you have to reread the books themselves.

Who doesn’t get nervous rereading their favorite childhood books?

Certainly not me. I was horribly nervous to reread Harry Potter again. What if it didn’t hold up? What if those incredible feelings of friendship and bravery from my favorite characters didn’t seem as heartfelt? Could I still relate to Harry as an adult?

It turns out, yes.

Part of the magic when entering JK Rowling’s world of witches and wizards is that you don’t have to be a child to appreciate it. As someone in their mid twenties, I felt just as entranced, unable to put any of the books down until I had devoured the whole series once more. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the series that is missed in the films is Harry’s inner monologue.

“Harry was left to ponder in silence the depths to which girls would sink to get revenge.”
-Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

We forget that Harry is just a kid. He’s a child who came from a neglected home and is suddenly famous. Everyone knows his name for ending a period of darkness that he can’t even remember. Could you imagine that? Despite this, his observations about the wizarding world are spot on even as early as the first book, even if he isn’t the brightest of children. And as an adult, I noticed jokes that I had missed the first read through.

One of the first things that struck me was that Lord Voldemort’s particular brand of evil is not unique to wizards.

Discrimination and telling someone that they are lesser because of their blood is not something that only exists in Harry Potter. Whether because of their skin color, religion or heritage — people are discriminated against and killed because of these things all the time. Think of slavery in the United States, the Holocaust in Nazi Germany under Hitler, Stalin’s purges in the Soviet Union and the Cultural Revolution in Mao Zedong’s China. Lord Voldemort represents all of these people.

Obviously, his quest for immortality is more of the fantasy realm. But his disregard for human life and his continued belief that those of lesser blood shouldn’t be allowed access to a wand or education at Hogwarts is unfortunately common.

But just as common are those who choose to resist these tyrants.

Harry and his friends are not alone in their fight against Voldemort. They are joined by the Order of the Phoenix and all of those who know that a world under Voldemort is not one worth living in. When rereading the Harry Potter series, I was again reminded of the power of sacrifice and belief in fighting against those who wish to silence voices of dissent. You cannot wait for someone to target you. Eventually, they will also come for you. This is so clear when the Weasley’s and other Pureblood families fight against Voldemort. By his standards, these families would be safe if they merely followed his rules. But they choose to stand up for those without a voice. Returning to Hogwarts is to remind yourself that one of the most basic tenants to fighting evil is to stand together not let meaningless divisions break alliances apart.

“… we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided … Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
-Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Martin Niemöller, a German pastor, wrote a poem about the Nazi’s rise to power, which always reminds me of Harry Potter. Even though it uses guilt and complicity to talk about those who chose not to speak out, it reminds me that you must speak out. That it is so important to stand up and fight for what you believe in, because that is how evil is driven back.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out — 
 Because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — 
 Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — 
 Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

But Harry Potter, more than anything else, is a story about death.

In of itself, death is not a negative thing. And the Harry Potter stories explain to us that death is just another part of life. It can be unbearably painful, as it was when Harry lost Sirius and Dumbledore. Where JK Rowling somehow perfectly articulates what it feels like to lose someone you care about and watch as everyone continues to live their life not knowing the loss you have just suffered.

It seemed impossible that there could be people in the world who still desired food, who laughed, who neither knew nor cared that Sirius Black was gone forever.
-Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

But death is not necessarily the end. It does not mean that we are utterly separated from our loved ones, that we will never see them again. This is a theme continually repeated in Harry Potter, whether it comes when Harry casts the Patronus Charm and sees Prongs, his father’s Animagus form, or when Harry uses the Resurrection Stone to see his parents, Sirius and Remus before making the journey to the forest. Both times, we’re reminded that death may separate us physically from those we love but that we always carry them with us wherever we go.

“You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don’t recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble? Your father is alive in you, Harry, and shows himself most plainly when you have need of him. How else could you produce that particular Patronus? Prongs rode again last night.”
-Dumbledore from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Hogwarts will always be there to welcome its readers home.

At the premiere of the final movie in the Harry Potter sequence, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two, JK Rowling had this to say, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” And when you’re reading or watching Harry Potter for the second, third or hundredth time, this story will always welcome you back with open arms. Even in the face of horror, lies and deceit, it will always remind you of the importance of friendship and bravery. Some things withstand the passage of time, and in my very humble opinion, Harry Potter will always be amongst those pieces of literature that does so.