20 Years On: A Fan Looks Back On What Harry Potter Taught Her

 

The rickety old wooden door shook with each booming knock. Lightning flashed, and, when each crack of thunder subsided, I could hear the rain gouging holes into the supersaturated mud that lay outside the door. With one final knock, the door burst open, coming off its hinges and falling forward onto the dusty floor. Eight year-old me gasped as I held onto my popcorn, craning my neck up at the giant figure on the movie theatre screen.

There are some very clear moments that I can recall at the drop of a pin, and the moment Rubeus Hagrid came to tell Harry Potter that he was a wizard is perhaps one of the clearest.

I had just turned 8, and was at my best friend Megan’s birthday party which was appropriately themed around the wizarding world. We got wands and little wizard figurines as party favors, and we were all seeing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time. It felt like I had been waiting a lifetime for that movie.

My father had dutifully read the first two Harry Potter books to me over the past few months: a chapter a night before bed normally followed by pleas for ‘just one more.’ My birthday gift had been Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban which soon became the next bedtime book. Our veterinarian had even acknowledged my obsession with the series gifting me his paperback copy of the Sorcerer’s Stone that became my weekly show and tell at school. I read a chapter each week to my class until two school bullies tried to get me in trouble for using the same item every week.

 

 

I had not yet started collecting Harry Potter merchandise–from bookmarks and Bertie Botts Beans to clothing and figurines. I had not yet started imagining my own adventures with Hogwarts. I had not yet decided that someday, if I ever got married, it would be Harry Potter themed. That would all come over the following ten years.

At 8, I was obsessed in all of the best ways and finally getting to see the very first movie was my reward for being patient. As the lights dimmed, I thought that this was going to be the best movie I was ever going to see. But at that moment when the half-giant Hagrid smiled down at the boy with the scar and taped glasses telling him that he was, in fact, very special, I knew it was going to be so much more.

My connection with Harry Potter may seem like any run-of-the-mill, little-kid-turned-book-nerd obsession, but now as a 24-year-old book addict with the latest wave of Harry Potter themed films and the first Harry Potter book in over 8 years, the truth is I’m all that and more. I’m the little red-haired girl from Upstate NY, who grew up with the boy who lived.

I was the type of kid who ran to either books or a pen and paper for comfort. When everything else in the world seemed to go wrong I could climb inside the well-worn pages, falling through the typed words to find my best friends and run off headfirst into a new adventure.

I had learned to read in Kindergarten thanks to my parents’ attentiveness and the school’s books with corresponding tapes that you could read along with. When the tapes didn’t read the words fast enough for me I stopped using them, and by the end of the year I was reading chapter books.

My first literary friends were Jack and Annie from Mary Pope Osbourne’s Magic Treehouse series who were transported through time and legend to find objects for Morgan le Fay. The summer after kindergarten I finally got my own library card and tried, like Matilda, to make the acquaintance of Ishmael, but was only able to walk with him for one chapter. But the young wizard facing dangers every school-year with his friends Ron & Hermione was the one friend I kept returning to. While the Harry Potter series got so many kids really interested in reading, it made me even more interested in writing. Everything I did, from recess games to childish writings, centered on Harry Potter. I even used to bring my imaginary friend Harry to Thanksgiving with me until even my family “acknowledged” him. I had Harry Potter journals where I would try to write down my own adventures with my wizarding friends. On my 11th birthday I waited for my owl to arrive all day insisting that it would, and if it didn’t, it was only lost.

 

 

While I was enraptured by Harry Potter and his friends for most of 2001, the rest of the world was still dealing with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When I began writing this, I didn’t believe that the two shared the same year at all. I still have trouble realizing that the first Harry Potter movie premiered a little over two months after the fall of the Twin Towers. In my mind, there is a very clear split between the worst thing imaginable and the start of my journey with Harry Potter.

At the time, I was old enough for my parents to try to explain what had happened on that sunny September day, and I remember seeing the news, but not really understanding how terrible it was. My senior year of college I saw a video of live footage from that day taken by news teams and civilians capturing the despair. I sat down on my bed and cried for a half hour, for the first time feeling what I can only imagine my parents felt 15 years prior. I’ve always dreamed of living in New York City, and when I called my mother later that day I was still in tears.

In 2001, on that beautifully horrible September Day, I have my other clearest memory of my childhood. I was in 2nd grade when the first tower was hit, and we were in the middle of a lesson. I have a sneaking suspicion it was math, because when the loudspeaker crackled to life with a ridiculous code word like “Key Lime Pie” or “Boston Cream Donut” we abandoned what we were doing, and I was excited to leave it behind. My teacher, Mrs. Sedlack, very calmly turned off all the lights and pulled the blinds down over the windows. She gathered her entire class to the reading area of the classroom, and settled herself down on the old couch. While the rest of the world was collapsing, Mrs. Sedlack, who had a husband at work and a 4-year-old son at daycare, read book after book to her class of 20 little kids whose parents were watching the world stop. In gratitude, the parents bought her a new, comfier couch for her dedication to preserving her students’ innocence.

I went home that day excited to tell my mom all about my amazing, book-filled day at school. I didn’t think my life could be any better, and I was sure it had to be the best day in the whole wide world until my mom told me that there were some very bad men who had done some very bad things. I found out the following week that one of the girls in my class lost her uncle at the World Trade Center that day. I don’t know if they ever recovered his body.

The Harry Potter universe provided an escape for me whenever the world was falling apart. My well-worn copies have been read so many times, I’ve stopped keeping track. They always seemed to provide a portal when I needed it most. When the films came out, it seemed that the opportunities opened new portals into magical moments.

 

 

When I was 9, my school hosted a Harry Potter night in the gymnasium as a fund-raiser. For one magical evening, my world was the one Harry Potter lived in. Older students had made booths to mimic Diagon Alley, and the gym was buzzing with kids running to buy Bertie Botts beans and wands and chocolate frogs.

I was dressed up as Hermione Granger, complete with a wand and my very own Crookshanks. I was even featured in the local paper for my costume and my excitement. It was, for the 9-year-old me, the best night of my life. Because of my costume, I got an extra raffle entry to win my very own Nimbus 2000 that one of the senior students’ fathers made. It turned out that maybe magic did exist because my parents helped me cart the broom home at the end of the night. It balanced on the curtain rod in my bedroom until it fell apart shortly after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out.

I don’t remember much else about the event, except that it culminated in a showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and I sat with my little sister to watch it all over again. Our eyes were glued to the screen and I felt like I was watching it for the first time all over again.

That night when I went home and fell asleep, I thought for sure I would dream of Quidditch and magic classes, but instead I had the first of a recurring nightmare I still have to this day. I guess not all of Harry Potter’s influence was good.

It starts the same way: I am in my childhood bedroom, complete with pink painted walls and a plastic lamp with a rocking horse balanced on three alphabet blocks. My parents are outside listening to the news, but from the sound quality I know they are listening to the radio and not the TV. The announcer is warning locals of mysterious disappearances in wooded areas in New York. When the sound fades, I am standing on our back porch calling the family dog. While everything else about the dream stays the same, the dog always changes. When I was young it was our black lab Bootsie, during my pre-teen years it was our second lab, Jessie. Now it is always our pitbull Cricket. I call the dog, and see them in the woods wrestling with something, and when the dog finally listens and runs to me, I see it was wrestling with a hooded figure who floats with unnatural speed towards me. I wake up in a cold sweat with a scream at the back of my throat.

 

 

Sometimes my obsession with Harry Potter led to extraordinary opportunities. When I was 12, one of my mom’s old teenage employees, Jackie, had a job at the Martha Stewart Show. I came home from a particularly harrowing day of sixth grade to have my customary cup of tea and chocolate chip cookies with my mom when she asked: “How would you like to go see Daniel Radcliffe on Thursday?”

It turned out that Martha Stewart needed audience members, and Jackie thought of my sister and I with our noses always buried in the latest release. Being like Hermione, I was terrified to miss school since actual absences were only applicable if you were sick, had a doctor’s appointment or had a family emergency. My mom jokingly said we had to go visit her “sick Aunt Martha” in NYC. I panicked about it, but as the day of the show got closer, the jitters were replaced with butterflies in my stomach. I was going to see Daniel Radcliffe up close and in person.

We went down that day with Jackie’s cousins, her aunt and her mom and waited in line to get seats. The entire time mom kept reminding us to not expect too much. We’d probably get the extra seats, but Jackie had an ace up her sleeve. She caught us just before it was our turn to go in and asked if we all had a question ready for Mr. Radcliffe. I had about a million. What was it like on set? Did he have a favorite book? What was his favorite part of being Harry Potter? I would have volunteered to interview him if I could. When we all said yes, she told the gentleman in charge and we four kids were led to the fourth row from Martha Stewart’s counter top.

When Daniel Radcliffe came out later in the show, we were maybe 10 feet away from him. Jackie’s cousin Briar and I were seated right in front of a camera so whenever the show went to commercial break we chattered about how Daniel Radcliffe had looked over at us and smiled. I can’t remember another time I was so excited. It seemed like a dream a week after the show, and even now I have a hard time believing it happened. I was never lucky, but for one afternoon I got to sit ten feet away from my celebrity crush.

I went back to school the next day, and my teacher asked if I had enjoyed my visit with my “sick Aunt Martha” and winked. She had known where we were going the entire time.

Harry Potter didn’t just give me nightmares and make-believe fantasies. As Harry, Ron and Hermione grew up, I grew up with them. When I had my first real crush, I retreated to the books to see what Harry or Hermione would do. When I had my first heartbreak, I understood Harry’s mopiness, and Hermione’s anger at Ron and Lavender Brown. Every major life event for me would resonate with something in one of the books: my first dance, my first date, even my first kiss. Those things were never exactly a first for me because I had lived them in some way through Rowling’s writing. I knew how life could go wrong. I would find myself saying “so this is how it really is.” The book world prepared me for things I would face, and not all of them would be good.

At 18, I lost my cousin Michael to suicide, at 20 my cousin Thomas to cancer. I had dealt with the deaths of grandparents as I grew up with Harry Potter, but I suddenly began to understand Harry’s, and Hogwarts’, stunned response to the death of Cedric Diggory. There was no reason for it. There was no reason for the deaths of Sirius, or Fred or even James and Lily Potter. It made me angry, but it also reminded me that life ends. Rowling never shied away from breaking our hearts, because it taught her readers how to cope with loss.

Life is about loss. You lose your baby teeth, you lose your innocence, and you lose people you care about. But they never truly leave you, because like Lily Potter’s love for Harry, they will always surround you. I still see things and think of my cousins, much like people would think of Harry’s mum when they looked into his eyes. Life means we lose people, but it doesn’t mean that it has to end for us. We have to keep on living, and carrying them with us. That’s how they live on.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out when I was 14 years old. I reread every book before biking up to my mailbox and waiting for the mailman to deliver my preorder. I tore through it in 24 hours, sleeping for about six hours when I fell asleep with the book still in my lap. I mourned the end, but it wasn’t for me. Not yet. I still had the final movies to look forward to.

 

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came out the July before my senior year of high school. I was five months shy of 18 when I returned from a European trip and finally got to see it in August of 2011. Ten months prior at the local movie theatre’s premiere of the Deathly Hallows Part 1 I found myself in the company of Megan’s birthday party from 9 years prior. We all sat together, and watched as the final battle between good and evil really began.

My parents and sister were the only people with me when I watched the final movie. I didn’t cry, as I had with the book. I thought I would be a mess, but as I watched the characters I considered family sustain injuries and die, I didn’t cry. I’m not sure if I was numb to it or if I was in a state of denial. I watched as the Elder Wand was destroyed and Harry and his friends turned back to a wounded Hogwarts.

The screen faded to black, and the words “19 Years Later” appeared, and in that moment the tears came. I didn’t have a tissue so I cried into the sleeve of my sweatshirt as Harry reassured Albus Severus that he would succeed at Hogwarts whether he was a Slytherin or a Gryffindor. The tears didn’t want to stop, and as the credits rolled and the lights came back on my little sister leaned over and nudged me.

“What are you crying over?”

Looking back now there were so many reasons. The End of my Innocence. The loss of my steadfast friends. The fact that I would be preparing to go to college a year later. The end of my childhood. The end of the magic I so strongly believed in.

I tried to stem the tears, but instead I started to laugh. I felt ridiculous.

“It’s over…it’s all over.”

But it wasn’t. Last summer I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and got so lost in the movie, I forgot I was watching it. I devoured The Cursed Child and cried at the end of it, except this time I realized something. I had something even better than a time-turner…I still had my Harry Potter books. My friends would never leave me, because I could visit them any time. And every time I visit I’ll still have that connection with it. I’ll still remember which passages comforted me during my first heartbreak, or fight with a best friend. I’ll still remember the adventures I imagined. I’ll still be able to find advice, because I can always go back.

The thing about Harry Potter that really made it special wasn’t the magic. It was the fact that someone who was chosen to save the world, the smartest witch of her generation, and a brave, hand-me-down wearing redhead not only had magic, but went through the same struggles any Muggle kid did. They had their hearts broken, fell in love, and had to learn how to be their own people. I think that’s what Harry is doing most of the series. He’s always had this role as “The Boy Who Lived” and while he tries to grow and fulfill that role, he also tries to determine who he is as an individual. Who he would be if he wasn’t “The Boy Who Lived.”

I laughed and cried with my friends from Harry Potter. I fell in love with them. I felt jealous that they lived in this perfect magical world. Except the point was it wasn’t perfect. Far from it. They had magic, but there was evil in their world, just like in my world, and on top of all that, they had to go through the normal growing pains any kid does. They had to learn how to navigate life just as much as anyone of us in the ‘real’ world.

I’m 24 now. I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I bought The Cursed Child (my 8th first edition Harry Potter book) and read it in two days. But while I’m a different person than I was at 18, I’m still trying to navigate through my life. I work at a job that’s rewarding, but it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve never seriously dated anyone. There are days when I feel completely and utterly alone and the world seems too impossible to conquer. Yes, I am 24. Seven years older than Harry and his friends when they won the Battle of Hogwarts and changed the world for the better. What have I done compared to that?

Well, the answer is I fought there alongside them. And I’ve travelled back to the early 1800s and fallen in love with Mr. Darcy and Mr. Tilney. I’ve fought against the Nazis in World War II. And I’ve gone back to New York City in the 1920s and helped Newt Scamander catch fantastic beasts.

Harry Potter will always remain a part of my life because it taught me that even on my darkest days I can always escape into a book. Real-life isn’t perfect, but neither was Harry Potter’s life. We and our fictional friends face different dangers every day. We battle our own inner demons and try to help those around us fight their own whether they are jealousy or drugs, alcohol or vanity. Harry Potter helped me grow up because it taught me that having an imagination is perhaps the most important thing we can keep from our childhood because it provides us with an escape.

And I know when I feel most helpless and overwhelmed, all I need to turn on the light in my life is to open the cover, fall back in between the ink and my friends will be waiting for me. Ready to teach me something new. Ready to show me that I too am special. That magic can and does exist. All you need to do is open a book, and let your imagination fly away.

 

J.K. Rowling Confirms She’s Working on Two New Novels

J.K. Rowling confirmed over Twitter that she’s working on two new novels, in addition to the four Fantastic Beasts movie sequels she’s penning. This first tweet is in response to a fan asking when she’ll deliver another book:

When another fan claimed she would write books to accompany the Beasts films about the adventures of Newt Scamander, Rowling gently corrected:

Rowling, who has also written crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, admitted that one of her upcoming two new projects will be a Galbraith thriller, responding to a fan asking which name the new work would be out under:

No word yet about the subject matter of Rowling’s new stories, but if her past body of work is any indication, it could truly be anything.

J.K. Rowling Reveals ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Will Be 5 Films

At a Warner Bros. global event yesterday, author J.K. Rowling revealed that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be the first of a five-part film series, different from the original trilogy we’d been told.

David Yates, the film’s director, also spoke at the event via satellite, and revealed the next movie in the series would take place in another major global city, though he didn’t reveal which one, and that cameos from young Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald would feature in the first flick. For Harry Potter nerds, this is huge, magical news.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is in theaters everywhere November 18. Watch the latest trailer below.

‘Harry Potter’ Gets a New Cover for Fifteenth Anniversary

While they are certainly not as offensive as the recent covers for The Bell Jar and Anne of Green Gables, the new covers for the Harry Potter series will likely cause an uproar among Potterheads. Mary GrandPré’s original cover art for the novels is getting shelved (see what I did?!) in favor for new artwork by Kazu Kibuishi. A box set will be available in September in honor of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone‘s fifteenth anniversary, which means you’re going to have to buy new copies for your library. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the next room freaking out that Harry Potter has now been around for fifteen years. 

[via Wired]

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

‘New York Times’ Review Of J.K. Rowling’s Adult Novel: “Harry Potter Isn’t In It”

New York Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani, contrary to popular daydreams, does not have such a great gig. As far as I can tell, her duties are to act as lightning rod for vitriol from cranky authors—Jonathan Franzen infamously called her the “stupidest person in New York City”—and read every new Philip Roth book to the bitter end. Often she is obligated to use the word “limn.” Likewise, reviewing The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s 500-page career move into the world of adult-targeted fiction, is a thankless task. So Ms. Kakutani elected to talk about Harry Potter the whole time.

With two paragraphs of perfunctory plot summation crammed in at the tail end, and just one icky example of Rowling’s prose, the column could mark any writer’s cold reception. Except that we apparently need it repeated to us, a few dozen times, that there’s no magic here, it’s “Muggle-land,” the climax is not a battle between good and evil wizards, Hogwarts doesn’t really exist, and that really, no joking, kids won’t like it. There are seventeen separate mentions of Harry Potter. Here’s one telling passage:

In some respects “The Casual Vacancy” is grappling with many of the same themes as the Harry Potter books: the losses and burdens of responsibility that come with adulthood, and the stubborn fact of mortality. One of the things that made Harry’s story so affecting was Ms. Rowling’s ability to construct a parallel world enlivened by the supernatural, and yet instantly recognizable to us as a place where death and the precariousness of daily life cannot be avoided, a place where identity is as much a product of deliberate choice as it is of fate.     

Yes, those wonderful themes of aging, death, identity, choice, and fate—monumental elements of narrative that were never available to us before Harry Potter showed up in a basket on our doorstep. I get that we want to weigh any art against the value of the work that preceded it, but if this book is such a departure, do I really need an exegesis of the old stuff? Which, by the way, had its fair share of clichés and tedium and clunkiness, though I’d never point that out for fear of being beaten to death with brooms.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

A Supposedly Brief Chronology of “The Simpsons” Literary References

In its multi-decade, 500+-episode run, The Simpsons has sported all sorts of popular culture references, from the Immortal Bard (a Hamlet parody still shown in high schools all across America by English teachers who want to get hip with the young people) to Spider-Pig (does whatever a spider-pig does).

Last night, The Simpsons aired a surprising homage to David Foster Wallace, titled “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again,” which borrows its title — and plot — from DFW’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The episode, in which Bart assumes the role of Wallace on his disdain-inducing luxury cruise, also includes musical snippets from Hot Chip (“Boy From School”) and Animal Collective (“Winter’s Love”).

With a television run as long as the one Matt Groening’s iconic series has had, there have been a whole lot of other surprising, notable and overall funny salutes to important literary tomes, from Hemingway to Stephen King to the Bible. Here’s a look back at just a few of the other key Simpsons moments that went by the book.

Edgar Allen Poe has been a rather popular source of inspiration, particularly with the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes. One of the first Halloween shorts was a direct take on "The Fall of the House of Usher;" in “Lisa’s Rival,” she replaces perfect Allison Taylor’s diorama of "The Tell-Tale Heart" with an actual beef heart, with the real diorama torturing her from the floorboards. But this early Treehouse of Horror installment, a retelling of “The Raven” featuring Marge as Lenore and Bart as the titular bird, is the best of these.

Lisa meets a group of college students in her gymnastics class and pretends to be one of them in order to belong to a group of her intellectual equals. One of her new friends is re-reading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (one of a few Pynchon references that have appeared on the show), but more importantly, the episode includes one of The Simpsons’ best lit. moments. Lisa attends a reading from former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky (as himself), who gets some support from a group of frat dudes with “BASHO” painted on their stomachs. It did make us wonder about the possibility of a world where poetry slams sported SEC football-caliber tailgates.

Harry Potter has had a few nods as well, including a pretty-okay Treehouse of Horror installment. But it was Lisa’s encounter with the real J.K. Rowling that included the words all fans wanted to hear. When she asks the author what happens to Harry at the end of the series, she responds, “He grows up and marries you. Is that what you want to hear?”

And finally, the Hamlet episode, inspiring curricula since its airing. Although it’s certainly difficult to condense a five-act play into a digestible TV mini-sode, The Simpsons did it as only they could. The episode is notable for its expert use of Ralph Wiggum (“I’m gonna go kill Hamlet! Here’s my mad face.”), “Rosencarl and Guildenlenny,” Lisa’s brief cameo as Ophelia and Bart’s one-sentence review of the play, which sums up the feelings of so many: “How could a play with so much violence in it be so boring?”

Afternoon Links: Holographic Nate Dogg To Perform At Coachella, Obama More Diplomatic On Kanye

● Allowing neither lousy weather nor death stop him, it is rumored that Nate Dogg will perform posthumously alongside Dr. Dre and friends at Coachella via hologram technology. [TMZ]

● According to Little, Brown, J.K. Rowling’s first post-Potter novel, The Casual Vacancy, will be a "darckly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising" about a parish council election that “becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.” "Very different to Harry," Rowling says. [GalleyCat]

● Green Day is readying a trilogy of albums for the fall — ¡Uno! for September, ¡Dos! for November, and ¡Tré! for January. [Billboard]

Out has culled together a fascinating oral history of Queercore, or, as they’ll have it, "the movement that changed the world (whether you knew it or not)." [Out]

● In a heartfelt letter posted to the BeyHive, Beyoncé thanks Michelle Obama for being the "ULTIMATE example of a truly strong African American woman," and particularly so for her baby Blue Ivy. "I am proud to have my daughter grow up in a world where she has people like you to look up to," she writes. Aww! [RapFix]

● During Round Two, President Obama allows that Kanye West is "smart" and "very talented," while maintaining that, "He is a jackass." [TheAtlantic]

J.K. Rowling Sells First Adult Novel to Little, Brown

Harry Potter manics, rejoice: After a few years of hanging out, J.K. Rowling has a new book on the way. TheBookseller.com reports that Rowling has just sold an adult project (as in age, not racy content) to adult publishers Little, Brown, for release sometime in the distant future. No details of the book’s content, title or date were forthcoming, though it probably won’t bear much resemblance to the Potter books. "The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry’s success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher," she said said, and I’m guessing she’s more than ready to put the wizarding world to rest.

It’ll be a clean break from those days: The Potter books were published by Bloomsbury, and going to Little, Brown offers a little more Serious Credibility for this next phase of her career. Since finishing the series with Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows in 2007, Rowling has mostly laid low, avoiding talk of an eighth Hogwarts novel and working on the Pottermore website, which is according to my little cousin’s Tumblr is a thing that tweens can’t get enough of. We’re all very excited to see how it turns out! If she doesn’t need the extra money, I could use some of it.

Harry Potter Role-Players Don’t Want to Be Placed in the Loser House

Harry Potter megafans have been flocking to Pottermore, an interactive game site based on the books by J.K. Rowling. What is essentially a Second Life for the kind of people who dressed up as wizards and witches for the films’ opening nights, the site will provide additional content not found in the books or the movies, including background information about Harry Potter characters. All of this takes place within the world of Harry and his chums, and users will even get to enroll in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, proving that a major overhaul of the education system in the United States might not be so bad. More importantly, Pottermore hopefuls are worried that they’ll be placed in an uncool house of wizards and witches!

If you don’t know anything about Harry Potter and need the following explanation, I salute you (and I also wonder where the hell you’ve been for the last ten years). But anyway: each student at Hogwarts is “sorted” into a house by a hat with a bad attitude and a propensity for rhyme. Harry and his pals are placed in Gryffindor, so obviously everyone wants to be there. Slytherin is the house where all of the bad guys lived (which is kind of odd, when you think about it, because wouldn’t they just get rid of that house entirely? I dunno, how about you sort them out of the school system, Sorting Hat?). Finally, there are Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, which are inconsequential, really, and are not important at all to the seven novels of the series. And Hufflepuff is a stupid name.

The sorting process for Pottermore is obviously a hot topic among anxious Potterheads:

Everyone who joins Pottermore will be sorted based on how they answer a series of questions. As Rowling explains in a video on the site, all sortings are final.

Bob Alberti of Minneapolis ended up in Gryffindor, an assignment he called a pleasant surprise.

“I really thought I was Slytherin material,” he said.

“Slytherin material”? Like, “having a capacity for evil”?

Maggie Schultz from St. Paul Park joined him in Gryffindor.

“I was just glad I didn’t end up in Hufflepuff,” she said.

Oh, honey, you all deserve to be in Hufflepuff.