The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

If Harry Potter is not a significant part of your life, I am so sorry.

This is going to be a long post. I don’t even know where it’s going as I’m writing but I can just tell. Oh, also, you may not want to read this if Harry Potter is not important to you, especially if you’re one of those people who’s not just ambivalent but has a weird negativity toward Harry Potter. [Note that I put a disclaimer on my Harry Potter post, but not on my political rants? Classic me.]

Harry Potter is not for children. Harry Potter was for children when I was a child, and as I grew up, Harry Potter continued to be for me. I was 11 years old when I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at my elementary school’s book fair. Do you remember those? It was already in paperback and The Chamber of Secrets was out in hardcover. A girl in my class was reading the second one first because it was new and she is an idiot. But I sat there, in Mr. Evans’ class, and launched into the most incredible literary journey of my generation.

I can visualize the moment that first I read that chapter title – The Boy Who Lived. I probably cocked my head to the side, quizzically, and didn’t understand. What did that mean, the boy who lived? I didn’t know the premise ahead of time to know that Harry had almost been killed. I can see myself in my bedroom at that time reading late into the night (probably like 9pm hahahaha) and envisioning Hagrid bursting into the tiny house in the stormy sea. Oh, I can just feel that excitement, as I couldn’t read the words fast enough for my imagination to take hold of them. It really was magical. I don’t know if I knew at that moment anywhere close to how epic this was going to be, but I read that first book as fast as I could and picked up the second and was then devastated that I’d have to wait for the third.

That first bated-breath book release was not a big deal, by comparison. It wasn’t at midnight and there were no children in costumes. I’m sure I just went that afternoon with my mom to buy it at Barnes and Noble or something. Maybe we got on a pre-order list? I don’t even remember. It was during book three that I solidified my spiritual, visceral connection to these characters. I remember crying and then cheering and jumping up and down when Sirius and Buckbeak went free. The suspense of Hermione and Harry with the time-turner…I don’t know if I breathed through those last chapters. I read book three in probably a week or something and then sat around until book four the following summer.

Oh, book four. There may have been a crazy midnight release, but I was too young. We ordered them on Amazon and when the doorbell rang at like 8am, I bounded down the stairs, ripped open my copy and read it cover to cover. We went to Hawaii with our family like a week and half later, and I was halfway through reading it again on the plane. My cousin Billy teased me that I was such a geek for reading such a big book. I immediately gushed about how much I LOVED Harry Potter books that he then probably called me a geek for being so obsessed with a story. I remember being in my big hotel bed (my little cousin Allison and I were sharing a room – hijinks ensued, as we were 12 and 9 at the time) under the covers with my book light after we were supposed to be asleep, re-reading the graveyard seen in utter terror – even though I’d already read it – because it was just. That. Good.

And then the AGONY of the year until the fifth book. By that time, the movies were coming out. I don’t remember being impressed with them, because like, they didn’t look right. I’m NOT one of those people who nitpicks all the ways that the movie is not exactly like the book. I love the idea of Harry Potter too much for any of that nonsense. I will, occasionally, wonder why something is different, but it has never RUINED the story or been SO BAD or whatever like so many people claim. They just need attention. For me, I think the first few movies were weird because while I absolutely LOVED seeing everything come to life, it kind of made my whole imagination version of the characters and the places…wrong. And it wasn’t that they were wrong, they were just mine. But since they weren’t the movie version, they weren’t exactly…right. So I still carry with me my original visions of Harry, Ron and Hermione for sure. The other characters are also slightly different in my mind. Like Sirius Black looks WAY different in my brain. Anyway.

Speaking of which, Sirius Black is my favorite Harry Potter character. So, of course, books 3 and 5 are my favorites. And while, yeah, he dies in book five, which sucks, it is the best one. Oh, the Order of the Phoenix. Oh, such joy in their organizing to fight for what they believe in. The protestor in my soul rejoices with them. Book five is the longest of all the books, and so maybe I love just how much of it there is? It’s likely.

Book six came out and we all went crazy over Snape and Dumbledore. The internet was insane – you couldn’t go on facebook for weeks without seeing something about how Snape killed Dumbledore. I remember such distress throughout the series about whether Snape was good or bad – it was so critical to the whole series that we never discover the truth for sure, until the very end. Oh, Snape. And then, of course, book seven was so bittersweet. It was the summer before my senior year of college – I know, right?! I’m an adult – and I didn’t stop crying, really, the entire time. I think I started crying at the end of book four and then just never stopped.

Oh, Harry.

I’m struggling to find the words I want to say. Last night, I watched the last movie. I went to a midnight Harry Potter premiere for the last time. I watched new images of my favorite characters come alive on screen for the last time.

At the movie last night, I was sitting next to my dearest Slytherin, Dylan. He’s a rad dude in general, but his love for Harry Potter (though he is totally a Slytherin and pretty much idolizes Tom Riddle) makes me love him even more. In the more emotional scenes of the movie (read: the parts where I was crying) it was oddly apparent that Dylan was not crying, and that I was having this physical response totally alone. I can’t believe that anyone could watch Hermione hug Harry goodbye as he goes off to let Voldemort kill him and not be in tears. Could you ever knowingly hug your living, breathing, friend goodbye, knowing they were walking off to their death? Umm, obviously not without crying. And that’s just it. I felt like it was crazy for anyone to not feel like this was really happening. Like these were real people we should be empathizing with.

I was reading an interview with Emma Watson where she said that she feels like Hermione is a person she knows. A sister, she said. And there’s something about that that makes so much sense. These characters have been part of the everyday life of these actors for a decade – that’s crazy! And starting with the books but continued with the films, they’ve made themselves a part of my life for a decade. Clearly not in the same way, but I’m sure you understand.

I have some dear friends who started the journey with Harry Potter, but got bored after a few books. Or were too old when they started reading and couldn’t get past the writing, which they claim is poor. I’ll let it slide, because, you know, they’re not super wrong. I just don’t understand how they let that happen. I don’t understand how anyone read the first book and didn’t stick with it forever.

You may think this is totally crazy, but I really don’t know who I would be without Harry Potter. For half of my life, he and Ron and Hermione have been with me. And Dumbledore and McGonagall and Sirius and Lupin and Snape and Dobby and…everyone.

You know what I was thinking about a lot this week? How wonderful it’s going to be to read Harry Potter with my own kids. I mean, I don’t have any kids. And I won’t for like, a long time. But when I do, they will love Harry Potter. And hopefully their dad will have loved Harry Potter. I mean, it won’t be a dealbreaker if he didn’t, and he’ll learn to love it when he experiences it with his kids. Listen to me with this whole future life scenario. What a kook.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, you truly love me and probably truly love Harry Potter. In which case, I adore you. I probably already did. But, in case you needed a reminder. I really do hope with all my heart that you are a Harry Potter fan and that you have felt even something remotely like what I have felt for the last 12 years. Hasn’t it just been…magical?

I made an important new friend.

Mark Driscoll cannot bully me.