No matter how you feel about Harry Potter, the stories have become a part of our culture. Everyone knows about the little boy with the lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. Released in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Clearly, there's something there.
Today, the hero of the Second Wizarding War turns 35.
Before that, he was Harry Potter who lived in the cupboard underneath the stairs.
And we loved him. Of course we did. His aunt and uncle were cruel and uncaring, his cousin Dudley was a menace, and our hearts broke for this lonely little boy. Harry, who only had the spiders to keep him company. Whose parents died in a car accident when he was a baby. Who was told, over and over, that he was worthless.
Until he received an unimaginable gift for his eleventh birthday.
It wasn't just the Hogwarts letter.
Though of course that would change his life, discovering that he was a wizard wasn't the best part of Harry's eleventh birthday. It was Hagrid. Who made him a cake, even though cooking wasn't one of his best skills. Who was overjoyed to see him. Who defended him.
Hagrid fully and unconditionally loved Harry.
Of course, we all know what happened when he got to Hogwarts.
He met Ron and Hermione, the two friends he would have for the rest of his life. Together, the three of them were going to save the Wizarding world. Sure, they didn't look like much at first. They were clumsy, bookish, easily frightened kids.
And they showed us how to be the best versions of ourselves.
Okay. Sometimes he showed us how to be the sassiest versions of ourselves.
But that wasn't the point of the books. Actually, it was sort of encouraging to see him trying to keep his sense of humor despite the sometimes ridiculous odds he faced. Harry made us smile in between the moments of unspeakable tragedy that punctuated the last books. Because let's be honest, those books HURT.
Under the weight of all that sadness, it's amazing that Harry remained so resolute.
When Harry lost Sirius, we screamed and cried with him. How could he be gone? He was so brave and good and it was so UNFAIR. There were only a few things that Harry truly allowed himself to want. He wanted to be with his godfather, to get to know him and be parented by him. For a moment, it felt like there was no justice. Not for anyone.
It kills me. Every time. Sometimes even more than 'Obliviate'. These two have been traveling for so long, on their own, with so little hope and almost nothing to go on. Just some vague clues and their own hard-won skills. It's so easy for forget that they're just children. They're so, so young. They're frightened and alone, and they're fighting in a WAR. Whenever I see this scene, I think of courage. We have a lot to learn from the Golden Trio.
"I open at the close."
Harry was willing to die for us. For. Us. Despite all that he had endured and lived through. He was willing to give his life to ensure Voldemort's defeat. No one should have to make that choice, especially not a child. And he was just shy of eighteen. We all knew that the world under Voldemort's rule would have been a terrible, miserable place, full of cruelty and despair. It was because of Harry's sacrifice that future was thwarted.
So here's to you, Harry.
Happy birthday. You beautiful brave young man. Your stories got me through some of the hardest years of my life, and I'm sure there are plenty of other people who feel the same. I'm sorry that so many of your 35 years have been characterized by loneliness, fear, and confusion. I hope that's not the case now. I hope you're happy, and you're living the life you deserve.