As I am waiting on the couch for my ride to get here, my phone beeps. It is not the friend who is supposed to have picked me up ten minutes ago (and to clarify, if we’d been going to any other movie, I probably wouldn’t have been so on edge) but another friend who is going to a different session at the same time. “There are so many Harry Potter freaks here, lol” she says. I look down at the robes I borrowed from my boyfriend’s sister and suddenly feel a little ill.
At the cinema there are many more dressed like me, or worse, but it’s hard to see them because Hoyts has us all sitting in the foyer and it looks like they’ve tried to cram the 300 Spartans into that tiny space. The whole room smells a bit funky. On the opposite side of the room to where my friends are, there are some girls dressed as house elfs, although I’m not sure the word ‘dressed’ applies here. There are also quite a lot of Luna Lovegoods. You can tell who is dressed as Luna because they mostly have Dame Edna glasses on. From where I’m standing, I spot several people in robes like mine, but a little better even because they have a crest. I join my friends, but the one who texted me is absent. And then we wait.
In fact, we’ve been waiting about a decade for this, so a couple of hours in a lobby shouldn’t be much. I got my first Harry Potter book in ’97, as a reward for going to the orthodontist to talk about getting two plates for my killer overbite. We’d gone to the clinic, and then gone to Dymocks before I went back to school. Dymocks looked different back then. The top ten section was on a different wall, and the carpets were oh so very nineties. It was the era of awkward clothing, and glasses that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Professor Trelawney. My mother still had a ponytail, I think. The book I got that day was The Chamber of Secrets. It was shiny and blue and sat on that top ten wall innocently unsurrounded by all the hoopla that now follows it everywhere. All I saw were two boys in a car, and an owl and some bags. And my mum said she’d heard the book was good on the radio. So we bought it. And then I went back to school. I didn’t touch the book for a while, not until after I’d been given the first one by Santa later that year.
From that moment, I’d been hooked. I remember ordering The Goblet of Fire through the bookstore at the uni where mum worked. I remember reading all the letters from fans printed inside the back of Chamber of Secrets. I remember getting to school the Monday after book five came out and hating this girl in the year below me for blabbing that Sirius had died. Likewise arriving the day after The Half Blood Prince came out, and those two friends of mine who never stopped talking Harry Potter spilling the beans on Snape and Dumbledore. Vowing never again. Taking the day off work when The Deathly Hallows came out, and leaving my friend’s sleepover just before eleven to go and pick up my preordered copy, so that I could spend the rest of the day in bed. I barely stirred to go to the bathroom. Mum brought me an emergency ham and cheese toastie at one point because I hadn’t eaten, and she was worried. But I finished it. I was triumphant.
I’ve always been more of a reader than a movie buff, but the Harry Potter movies became, for me and many others, somewhat of a tradition. Those same two diehard Harry Potter fans who gave away the ending to Book Six have become some of my oldest friends simply by being around every time a new movie in the series comes out. (And in one of my old journals, I have an essay that one of them wrote about why she couldn’t believe Snape was evil. So I’d like to say publically to her, you were right.) I don’t remember going to the first few movies, but I do remember huddling on the couch at my old house with the other one of these girls watching the first three movies. That was the first time I saw Prisoner of Azkaban. Playing the clinker game while we watched, asking “Will Harry marry Ginny?” and getting a green clinker for no; asking “Will Ron marry Hermione?” and getting a yellow clinker for maybe. Asking “Will Ron marry Ginny then?” in a fit of giggles and the clinker being pink, for yes.
The first time going to the film was a big to do would have been around June of Year nine. Eleven of us went to The Goblet of Fire for my clinker-eating friend’s birthday. I remember we went to the film on a Thursday night, thinking we were obviously very grown up, and then walking through the shopping centre connected just before nine to pick up the friend who’d been working. Going back to Clinker-girl’s for a sleepover. Positing what would come next.
The next big milestone for me was movie six. We went for the Snape-Essay friend’s birthday this time, totally on a whim, during the day on the first day it was out. We saw someone from our school there, and hid in the big crowd to not have to sit with him.
Then, finally, last year I dressed up for the first time. My very first midnight screening.
It wasn’t the best costume in the world: dumpy old school shoes, knee high socks, a black skirt, a blouse and a vest. I looked a little more like a badly made-up Gossip Girl character than a Hogwarts student. My friends all had scarves in house colours and things like that. We arrived early and sat in a line that snaked down past all the cinemas. Someone was dressed as a Golden Snitch and a boy dressed as Harry put a broom between his legs and chased her up and down the corridor while we all laughed and cheered. The manager had to tell us all to behave. I wished I’d brought cards.
Perhaps I will never again don a silly costume and wait around in a cinema lobby talking about Horcruxes and House-Elves. Perhaps I will never again see a movie at midnight. But it is the future generations that I feel sorry for, the kids who won’t get to grow older with Harry Potter, waiting for his next adventure to be published. The kids who won’t be disappointed when their Hogwarts letter doesn’t come on their eleventh birthday. The kids who won’t whisper lumos into the end of a torch as they read under the covers past midnight because they’re terrified of snakes and the basilisk has Ginny and their mum said time out but they’re so wired they can’t close their eyes because they just know they’ll have a nightmare... anyone else? No? Just me? There will be future generations of Harry Potter lovers, but only mine will be the true Harry Potter freaks.