hp7 It All Ends. An end of an era. The end of childhood. I’m pretty sure everyone in the industrialized world knows that the final Harry Potter movie came out on Friday (in the U.S.). This is it.

People of all ages have felt the loss, from children who weren’t alive when the first books came out, to retirees. I think, though, that my age group has felt the end more keenly. After all, we are the Harry Potter Generation.

I read the first book when I was in fourth or fifth grade — ten or eleven years old, and my fifth grade teacher read it aloud to us as a class. The Prisoner of Azkaban was a Christmas gift, and I read it in its entirety in a single day. When the fifth book was released, I went straight from my eighth grade graduation ceremony to the midnight release party at a bookstore a few towns over. The end of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, came out shortly after I graduated from high school. And now, I’m a recent college graduate, off to face the “real world,” and one of the longest, most consistent interests of mine has come to an end.

I’ve grown up alongside the actors and actresses from the movies. I am 22; Daniel Radcliffe is (almost) 22; Emma Watson, 21; and Rupert Grint, 22. It’s fairly indicative of how things changed that I had a glass of wine while watching a CNN program about the final movie. While Harry, Ron, and Hermione (and their real-life alter egos) were children, I was as young and clueless as they were when I first picked up the books. During Harry’s angsty teen years, I was pretty angsty too, I admit. When they felt insecure and had secret crushes on their friends — well, isn’t that the very definition of high school?

When I graduated from high school, it was bad enough that seven years of love and fascination and late-night page turning and Midnight Release parties was over, along with everything that I’d known for my entire life. But at least there were the movies, an annual or semi-annual reminder of the brilliance of J. K. Rowling’s characters and writing, something new to look forward to. And now, the last movie is out, and I’m still trying to figure out what it means to be a college graduate. I saw the film at midnight, and was struck by the diversity of the crowd. To my surprise, I saw few people my age, the group who were the intended age group when the series first began — it was mostly high school age kids, or middle-aged adults. I myself went with a retired librarian, not a group of my friends.

This is a testament to the universality of Ms. Rowling’s books, that what is ostensibly a children’s book can touch and inspire people of all ages, from around the world. But there is something special about growing up with the characters. Harry Potter was an important part of my life throughout my childhood, and I know many, many of my peers felt the same way. Harry was one of us, and as we tried to navigate through our teens and figuring out who we were, he was doing the same thing, more or less at the same time.

I’m sad that it’s all over, but whenever I joke with people — “I’m a college graduate, and the last movie is out — my childhood is over” — my friends often respond with a
determined refusal. “Harry Potter is never over,” one friend said vehemently. It’s true. There may be nothing new, but we’ll always have the books, and Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest will live on forever in the pages.

– Jane Granville