Seven years ago, yesterday, we spent the night driving down a motorway, and our first act in the morning was to find a supermarket so that we could buy a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
I was ten years old and I'd have been one of the kids at the midnight signings, but we were booked to go on holiday. I have no idea why we didn't have the sense to book the holiday around the book release. My whole life revolved around Harry Potter back then, anyway. (OK, to an extent, it still does.)
I remember driving on the eight-hour drive to the hotel, strapped into the back of the car, watching the sky turn dark around us, the night before the launch. At around half eleven, my mother pointed out of the window to a W H Smith lorry. "They'll be carrying the books" she said. My parents had never seen anything like the frenzy that was accompanying the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with any other book, and they regarded my excitement with a smile and a nod. Neither of them had read the books themselves, but they'd been dragged to the films, and they shared an interest in the whole Harry Potter universe. (My mum loved Snape's character, due to the fact she thinks Alan Rickman's a brilliant actor and we had endless is-he-evil-or-not debates.)
I still remember sitting in a hotel room and watching an interview with a little girl who'd bought one of the books at a midnight release. She was already on Chapter 4 and I covered my ears so I wouldn't hear any of the plot. My mother had pre-ordered the book for me already on Amazon but we could all see there was no way I was waiting two weeks for the last book to come out.
So at nine the next morning, we walked into a supermarket and asked if they had the book. They burst out laughing over what was probably the sixty seventh request they'd faced that morning and pointed to what must have been about six hundred copies. One of them asked who wanted one and I was like:
I literally leapt for the book. No, literally. I actually crashed into the pile of books and ended up knocking them to the floor. Of course I did.
But we paid and miraculously I didn't crash into anyone as I raced out of the automatic doors across the street while my parents headed for a café to drink a cup of coffee. As they dawdled outside one, deciding whether or not to go in, I opened the book.
After a few moments, they decided to go in. They turned and looked around for me. They had to look down because I was already on page five and had taken a seat on the pavement in order to concentrate on the story.
It took me five days to finish the book.
For the rest of the summer, my cousin and I endlessly discussed the last book. We wrote what would eventually become our first tentative fanfictions about the series. We talked about Snape and all the revelations over and over again. We squeed over the Pensieve scene over and over again. We went berserk over Ron and Hermione, who we'd been shipping since Philosopher's Stone. We insisted on reading passages aloud over and over again.
But my first memory of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the excitement of sitting there, the pages crisp and new in my hands, with my mum and dad carefully guiding me down the street-a difficult feat, given I wouldn't look up from the book-while I stared at the pages of Book Seven, and tried to take in the fact that after what felt like years, I was holding the last book in my hands.
I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd known that in seven years, I'd be sitting with my laptop, in my bedroom on a summer night, writing a blog post about reading the seventh book. I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd have known that Harry Potter was just the start of my fandom obsessions, the same way the Beatles were just the start of my music obsessions. I wonder what I'd have thought if I'd known that years from then, I'd have done a load of the things I dreamed about at the age of ten, that seemed completely impossible for me then. It's strange to think that a load of the people I know now, that I'm close to now, I didn't even know back then-I wasn't even aware they existed. I'd never even heard of half the things I'm obsessed with now. That's growing up, I know. You learn about new things and open yourself to new interests.
But the best thing about the really good things is that new things don't push them out. These days, I'm obsessed with Supernatural and Sherlock. But I'm still obsessed with Harry Potter. Music wise, I just got into MGMT and Tigers Jaw, and a load of other indie music. But I still listen to the Smiths and the Cure and the Beatles and the Beautiful South, and all the things I loved when I was younger that I still love now. I've read thousands of things but I still go back to Calvin and Hobbes over and over. Because they're things I don't stop loving.
And that's the great thing about Harry Potter. You don't have to grow out of it. Seven years on, I love it just as much as I ever did-maybe even more so. You don't grow out of it, you grow up with it. Seven years in the future, it will have been fourteen years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published. I wonder who I'll be close to then. Probably some, if not all, of the people I'm close to now-but others too. People I haven't even met yet. I'll probably have interests I don't have now. I may be obsessed with bands and films and TV shows and books that don't even exist yet. I might be living somewhere entirely different. I don't know what's coming, but I know that the stuff that's truly great will stick around now I've found it and the future great stuff will stick around when I find it, in whatever way I need it to.
And I'm pretty sure that this time in seven years, I'll still be reading my Harry Potter books. I'll still have all my shippings going on, and I'll still laugh and cry over the pages. I'll still read about the Dementors when I'm riddled with anxiety, still laugh at Sirius' funny lines, still cry at the death of every character I loved. And I'll still smile at the end. And at the last line.
So, it's seven years since the last Harry Potter book was released. Right now, it's a summer night. I'm sitting on my bed, typing this up. Will You Be By Me by the Wallpaper Airplanes is playing on my ipod docking station and the sound is filling the room, providing a backbeat to the words I'm writing. I'm looking at my own stories I'm working on, stories I wouldn't have dreamt I'd be writing seven years ago. Outside, I can still see the shapes of the garden, faint in the summer dark. And Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is lying on the bed next to me. Because I'm about to start re-reading it tomorrow.
I mean, it should only be around the eighty-seventh time.
Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home-J.K. Rowling.
I don't know exactly what might be happening in seven years. But I'm pretty sure that, no matter what happens, I'll still be reading Harry Potter.