When I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I could never have even begun to imagine how much it would impact my life.
I’d always been known in my class for being an avid reader — in fact, throughout my childhood, I devoured book after book, no matter whether it was fiction, non-fiction, historical, biographical, or anything in between. So when a handful of new books found their way onto the windowsill of our classroom, I immediately pored over them, before carefully plucking one of two copies of The Sorcerer’s Stone — or The Philosopher’s Stone, as it was originally published under in the U.K. — and carrying it to the reading corner to crack open the pages.
I was immediately transfixed, the way that most are when they first enter into Harry’s world, and spent every break and lunchtime poring over each and every word until I turned the final page, and wanted to learn more. I wanted to learn about the magic, about Hogwarts, about Harry’s life, and what would happen next, but it would be another year before I could dive back into the Wizarding World with The Chamber of Secrets.
So, I did the next best thing. When it came time to suggest a book to cover in our reading hour I recommended The Sorcerer’s Stone. Over the coming months, my class read it through chapter-by-chapter, and I suddenly had my own slice of “fandom” within my school. We drew art together, discussed our theories, wrote short stories set within Hogwarts, and even dressed up as our favorite character on World Book Day. It was a smaller, more intimate version of my fandom experiences from that moment on.
I wouldn’t say that Harry Potter was my first fandom — that honor falls somewhere between Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura — but it has, perhaps, been my most enduring.
In an effort to seek out more fans of the books, particularly when I moved on from primary school, I found my way onto forums dedicated to this little slice of J.K. Rowling’s universe. Then came Yahoo! groups, and Livejournal, and emails back and forth, sharing as many — if not more — words as Rowling herself had written down in her novels.
Friendships were forged between our deliberations about which direction the story was moving in, as well as waxing poetic about our favorite characters, scenes, spells, and relationships. The Sorcerer’s Stone became the unifying point from which my own world expanded across continents and world views that were so very different than my own.
There is no denying that it impacted my life in ways that have made me who I am today. Coming from a small village in Wales, being isolated in a community that had very little diversity, meant that it would have been so easy to become caught up in that mindset, never really thinking or moving outside of it.
Instead, the world became so much wider, and with it, I grew, alongside Harry, certainly, but also alongside these newly forged friendships — which, admittedly, began online, but later segued into real life.
Trips were made, together, to midnight launches of the books, to the movies when they were released, and later to events in and around London, when I was old enough to travel alone. They were experiences that will never leave me, joyful and once-in-a-lifetime, shared with people who — though we may now have moved in separate directions — will always have a profound and unshakable space in my heart.
The Sorcerer’s Stone became, in some ways, the catalyst for my passion for dissecting media, where my Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura experiences were more gentle and low-key. It could take most, if not all, of the credit for my later passion for writing and reviewing, which would ultimately lead me here, to Hypable, and to some of the friendships that have become the most dear and important to me.
There is a lot that I can thank Harry Potter for. But being my first really influential fandom, challenging my world view, bringing me friendships, experiences, and a childhood that would never have been the same without it is something that I will always remember every time I return to it and carefully turn pages that are yellowing with age, but remain just as wondrous and precious as the first time I found them.