My mom brought Harry Potter home from the middle school where she worked. She was the English teacher and had a book she thought I’d like. It was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Actually, it was Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, because by 1999 (when I was a freshmen in high school) three books had been published. I took it up with some interest and soon I was engrossed. I read through the first three books quickly and right away wanted more.
I loved to imagine myself as a student at Hogwarts, and what all other spells there were, and what the books in the library were like, and all the strange teachers and creatures that roamed the halls.
All through high school and college I had been writing in online role-playing communities, imagining our characters engaging in JKRowling’s immersive Wizarding world. And today it continue to be one of my most treasured hobbies.
Pottermore just opened to the public this April 2012. And it took me right back to my roots as a fan. It made me feel 14 again. Even 11 again, the age I would have been to get my Hogwarts letter.
In Pottermore, you create an account and then you begin exploring a series of interactive scenes that follow along with the events of the first book. And when you reach the right chapter, you get a letter. Then you shop for your supplies, and Ollivander helps you choose your wand. You arrive at Hogwarts and the Sorting Hat sits on your head.
I maintained for a long time that I would be sorted Ravenclaw. I’ve always been quite studious and fancied myself witty and was broken if I got even a B+. And as I got older, I latched onto Hufflepuff as my home house. I see myself as a person focused on interactions between people, as someone concerned with communication and sometimes lacking a clear place in social groups.
And so I experience the drama and self-questioning that those little Hogwarts students must have felt at their moment of truth – I was sorted into a totally unpredictable place! Slytherin! Even though I knew it was just a game, I allowed myself to be there and wonder at what it could mean, that all this time, I’ve been Slytherin. I was jarred but happy. Turns out there had always been that inkling feeling that was destined for better things than my peers – and it turns out I’d always been quietly right.
And so in honor of that, I drew myself as an 11-year-old Hogwarts student, with my blonde bangs and ponytail, the pants I would have worn instead of a skirt. A too-big sweater as was fashionable in the 1990s…(Not that I was fashionable!) The cauldron that I would explode after trying my first potion, and a stack of books who would be my companion for all seven years.
Pottermore did something I didn’t expect. It surprised me. :)