Mom and Dad knocked briefly and rushed into my room. Half-asleep, I dug one foot, then the other, into the carpet. It was a bit too early to wake up for school, so I could only wonder why they had dragged me out of bed, or why they were so excited. It was my eleventh birthday.
I trudged up the first set of green-carpeted stairs to the main floor of our house and then up the next set to reach my parents’ bedroom. They said they had something for me.
We were standing at the foot of their bed when my mom handed me an envelope with painted brown edges — it looked old and mystical. The letter was addressed to me, and I immediately recognized the sender. Wide awake, I tore into the envelope as carefully as possible. It held three pieces of paper burnt at the edges by fire: the first was a note from the current Minister of Magic, apologizing for using Muggle mail and not the usual method of delivery; the second was my letter of acceptance into the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; and the third was a list of books and items to bring when I reported to Platform 9 ¾ on September 1. Nothing was written in emerald-green ink. Only plain, black letters stared back at me, but it was perfect. For my eleventh birthday, my parents gave me my Hogwarts letter, and I cried.
They knew how important Harry Potter was to me.
◊ ◊ ◊
Whenever one of the movies was on TV, my mom would call me into the room, and I had to watch. Sometimes I didn’t even have to be called; I just came when I heard the music.
To this day, I’m grateful to J.K. Rowling for the series that made me love reading. I don’t remember exactly when I read the first book for the first time, but I remember how much it mattered. Every summer for five years straight, I read the series over and over again. I learned everything I could. I practically lived on Pottermore, the then official Harry Potter website. I took Pottermore’s Sorting Hat test many times, just to prove I was a Gryffindor. Whenever one of the movies was on TV, my mom would call me into the room, and I had to watch. Sometimes I didn’t even have to be called; I just came when I heard the music.
Towards the end of my high school career, and as I began to read more, I decided I wanted a personal set of the series to cherish. It had already been a few years since I’d read the books, but I still couldn’t forget Harry Potter. And I had my eye on a specific collector’s edition. The box set featured all-new art of the same shaggy-haired boy with his lightning scar on various mischievous adventures, and the book spines lined up to display a beautiful rendition of Hogwarts. The cardboard container captured a Hogsmeade tavern that welcomed me home. Something about this new art rekindled my nostalgia, and I quickly ripped off the clear plastic packaging. I felt ready to embark once again into the wizarding world as I flipped through the pages, admiring the new illustrations inside. I put the set on my shelf, excited to come back and read it.
I never did.
When I went to college, I took the collector’s edition with me, not quite ready to leave it behind. But it sat on the bottom shelf as my other shelves filled up with new favorites: Beowulf, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline and Neverwhere, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Marie Lu’s Legend and Skyhunter, and too many other literary classics to list. I read so much, yet I never revisited Harry or the wizarding world as I’d once planned.
The conversations always started the same way. Someone would say something about Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling, and I’d pounce.
I don’t know when, but as with many childhood things, somewhere along the way I grew out of Harry Potter. At first, I wasn’t any less of a fan. I still occasionally watched the movies, even the extended-universe ones. Two months before I turned seventeen, I tried Butterbeer at Universal Studios. I cried on the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” amusement park ride. I still bragged about being a Gryffindor and answered any questions people asked me about the lore — though as the years went by, the exact details only got muddier. I wrote final essays for my first two college English classes on Harry Potter. I continued to think about the series often. But I hadn’t picked up a Harry Potter book in over seven years.
I was scared to.
And I’m not proud of how I acted as a result.
◊ ◊ ◊
Over the past few years, I silently struggled with my thoughts and opinions on the series. But vocally, I was unequivocal about how bad it was. The conversations always started the same way. Someone would say something about Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling, and I’d pounce.
I would begin, “Rowling has terrible style! Every time her characters say something, it’s always ‘so-and-so said [adverb].’ A little variety would be nice!”
If my dad was in the room, he’d say something like “it’s a children’s book” or “but Rowling made a lot of money — where’s yours?”
I’d pontificate on how I believed that children’s books should still be well-written, and that wide readership did not define a book’s worth. We would play this repetitive cat-and-mouse that always ended with me running off, fuming and frustrated that no one understood.
How could they? I didn’t really understand why I was saying these things anyway.
Could you just stop loving something for no reason? I felt I had to be mad and spiteful; something had to be wrong with the series since I didn’t love it anymore.
Admittedly, my fallout with Harry Potter was brutal. If you ask my dad or my boyfriend — or really, anyone around me who can hear — they’ll tell you I spent the last few years badgering any poor soul who happened to spring the topic. I bashed the very series I used to love, indicting Rowling for her transphobia. I complained about the failures of the extended universe, too, and about how Rowling could not write. But the truth was I hadn’t read any of the books recently enough to know for myself. I was only quoting the critical reviews I’d read, taking their judgment as my own. I simply didn’t know how to handle falling out with what used to be the most important series of my life. I was confused and concerned. I believed what I had learned from the critics, but I knew that their words alone couldn’t have shaken off my love for and dedication to Harry Potter. I couldn’t pinpoint what had really caused this change. Could you just stop loving something for no reason? I felt I had to be mad and spiteful; something had to be wrong with the series since I didn’t love it anymore.
◊ ◊ ◊
I didn’t know I wanted to find the answers to my questions, but I’ve since learned that I needed to. For my capstone project, the last and longest work I completed in my undergraduate career, I decided to reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I felt it was fitting to end my education with the book that had inspired my love for reading. I returned to my original copy, again leaving the box set forgotten and untouched.
I turned the first few yellowing pages and recognized the familiar way the book’s spine tore at the edges, a consequence of the countless hours I’d spent clutching the volume in my hands. After almost crying from the comfort, and reading the first chapter as if an old friend had welcomed me home, I began hating every minute I read. I could not let myself enjoy the book despite the sentimental value it held. I thought back to every new article and fiction piece Rowling had written on Pottermore. I searched the book’s pages for proof that she’d contradicted herself. I waited for her to slip up. I kept looking for some signal of transphobia too, or even more traditional views of gender. Luckily, I found nothing. But I scrutinized Rowling’s style, noticing how correct the critics were about her writing. I analyzed every syllable and constantly updated my boyfriend and Dad about all my complaints. Of course, they’d heard enough by now, but at least this time I knew these complaints were my own, that I wasn’t quoting someone else.
It took reading 186 long and tedious pages to finally let myself enjoy a childhood favorite again. All I needed was Lee Jordan’s Quidditch commentary to jog my memory. I finally remembered why I enjoyed Harry Potter so much: the novels were a fun ride that pulled my young, excited self along. And I could follow too, if I let go of my unreasonable anger. I still used my literary eye as I read. But I realized that some of my criticisms had been misplaced, and I just needed to let myself enjoy Harry Potter. I had been so confused about why my love for the series had faded that I forgot I liked it still. I had found my old friend. Even though the book was not exactly as I remembered, I could still enjoy what it had become for me. I could admit that, while Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was not the perfect novel I had placed on a pedestal for so long, I still enjoyed its fantastic world and endearingly kooky characters.
After reading the first Harry Potter for the first time in years, and after writing the last paragraphs of my capstone, I came to an unexpected conclusion: I didn’t want to pick up another volume of Harry Potter. I don’t think I’ll ever read another one of the books again. When I’d begun my capstone project, I thought I would either rediscover my love for the series or come to hate it entirely. Neither happened. Instead, I felt content. Rereading the first book, I realized that I didn’t hold onto every word like I used to, but I didn’t vehemently hate Harry Potter like some of the critics. I just moved on. I realized all my anger and confusion had just been growing pains. I know it won’t be the last time I feel them.
 I still cannot get over the thought and detail my parents put into this letter. They adequately explained why it had to be sent by Muggle mail and not by owls. As Muggles became increasingly aware of the wizarding world, my parents said, Hogwarts had to work harder to keep its existence a secret — or a fiction. So the school had begun using the untraditional method of Muggle post. My parents had also copied the acceptance letter and the list of books directly from the book itself; I quickly double-checked the accuracy of their work … It really was perfect.
 In the series, the Sorting Hat divides all first-year Hogwarts students into one of four houses, each known for a certain quality: Gryffindor (bravery), Hufflepuff (friendship), Ravenclaw (intelligence), or Slytherin (ambition). I wanted Gryffindor — I wanted to be brave. When I first took the test on Pottermore, I was delighted to learn I was in fact a Gryffindor. My brother, of course, accused me of cheating. Since I knew the series so well, he figured I knew which answers to choose to get the house I wanted. So, I took it again … and got Hufflepuff. I don’t know how many times I took that test, with different results each time — but I still insist I’m a Gryffindor.
 When I first saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I loved it. But the second film, The Crimes of Grindelwald, wasn’t as good. When I later re-watched the first film, I decided that I didn’t like the extended universe movies at all. And don’t even get me started on the play-that-must-not-be-named (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).
 I took these first college classes when I was 16, and nothing had managed to tarnish my love for the series. But the critical reviews I found during my research would plant the smallest seed of doubt in me.
 To quote my father, at this point, I was #PotterNoMore.
 And she did. In an article, Rowling later claimed that Hermione was a Hatstall — someone who takes a long time to be sorted into their Hogwarts house — but the book made Hermione’s Sorting seem so quick and snappy. According to the original source material, Hermione couldn’t be a Hatstall like Rowling said she was.
 I was so afraid I’d find something transphobic in the book, something that would ruin all the magic. If I had, my conclusions would have been different. But since it seemed her bias had not made its way into the books, I chose to hold the series as separate from its author.
 If someone has a trick for turning this off, please let me know.
 My complaints remain with Rowling’s politics and with the extended universe and additional movies.
Isabelle Rubio was born and raised in Barstow, CA. She has always considered herself a writer and loves to read. Determined to jumpstart her literary career, she graduated from high school in 2018, Barstow Community College in 2019, and UCLA in 2021. Having recently earned her BA in English, Isabelle is excited to explore the publishing industry with her new interest in editing. More of Isabelle’s work can be found here.