For thousands of fans now in their late teens and early 20s -- including four Tower Hill alumnae -- Harry Potter, fighting wizards and struggling through magic school, grew up alongside them, as they battled middle school bullies and then the SATs.
Reprinted with permission from The News Journal
Story by Danielle Bukowski
When Mark Brainard Jr. began reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," he was 10 years old, just like Harry, the boy who discovers he's a wizard in the first book.
Now 23 and a graduate of the University of Delaware, he admits that the release today of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2," the last in the series of movies based on J.K. Rowling's beloved books, has an impact on him he didn't anticipate.
"This week almost feels like I'm putting my childhood to rest," Brainard says. "I grew up with the books."
For thousands of fans now in their late teens and early 20s, Harry Potter, fighting wizards and struggling through magic school, grew up alongside them, as they battled middle school bullies and then the SATs.
The final movie debuted in the U.S. at midnight last night, 13 years after the first book's stateside publication.
The midnight premieres of the shows sold out at all Delaware area theaters, with Regal's Brandywine Town Center and Peoples Plaza adding shows at 3 a.m. to accommodate the demand. Most of this evening's shows are also expected to sell out.
"Deathly Hallows Part 2" is expected to end up No. 3 on the list of biggest presale ticket orders, according to Fandango. With $32 million sold by Wednesday this week, it will rank behind No. 1 "Twilight: New Moon" and "Deathly Hallows Part 1."
It wasn't just the magic, the adventure and the battles won and lost by Harry and his Hogwarts crew that kept young people hooked.
"It's because I grew up with it," Brainard said. "As the characters became more mature I matured along, and it kept me coming back."
The devoted fans who grew up with Harry Potter have mixed emotions as the film series concludes.
Liz Purcell, 25, expected the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" midnight premiere to be intense.
"I think there will be cheering, crying, and some parts will have people out of their seats. I'm really excited," said the self-proclaimed Hufflepuff, one of four "houses" of students in the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Some feel the closing credits will be bittersweet.
"My friends and I actually talked about whether we wanted to see the movie on opening night or wait a few weeks, so that it wouldn't have to be over," said Georgetown sophomore Logan Weaver, 19. The Wilmington native dressed up with a group of friends for a 2:30 a.m. showing.
"Of course work at 9 a.m. will be a little rough," Weaver said, but as a Harry Potter fan since the very beginning, she expects it to be worth it.
"It's a mixture of sadness and excitement," said Ian McCourt, 17, of Massachusetts, an incoming freshman at the University of Delaware. "It's the end of an era, for sure, but there will be a sense of accomplishment as well. I've followed these characters since the beginning, and I'm looking forward to the ending."
The best-selling series by J.K. Rowling has been developed into a theme park for Universal Studios as well as seven blockbuster movies. Amanda Lasicki visited The Wizarding World at Universal last winter, and was chosen for the wand-sorting process at the replica of Ollivander's Wand Shop.
The 23-year-old remembers excitedly how "I spent the rest of the weekend doing silly things like pointing my wand at the TV while changing the channel."
Not officially affiliated with the Harry Potter franchise is the International Quidditch Association, which held a Deathly Hallows Expo Match in NYC Wednesday in honor of the movie. There are 272 official quidditch teams in the U.S., inspired by the game in the novels but adapted to those of us without flying brooms and a proper command of spells.
Said CEO Alex Benepe, "The central focus is the human snitch, which adds dynamism to the game." An overwhelming majority of teams are formed on college campuses by the same students who learned to read with the initial Harry Potter books. Benepe believes adult leagues will pick up as those students graduate.
Harry Potter fan Kim Fabian, who will attend Yale in the fall, organized a Muggle Quidditch Tournament last year, while she was a student at the Charter School of Wilmington. To her, the thrill of the books is not just their relevance to her generation.
"First of all they are so well written, and then there's the magic. And the friendships are so real. ... It's something we've all grown
up with, and it's something you can share with people," Fabian said.
For Logan Weaver, the books made her want to travel.
"I was moved to explore another culture. ... My grandparents live in England, and I attended boarding school for two years of high school there," she said.
Harry Potter "really captured the imagination of children 10 or so years ago when it first came out," said Karen Quinn, director of the Corbit-Calloway Memorial Library in Odessa. "I haven't seen that level of impact with any other series or book since."
"The books were filled with magical creatures and all this strange vocabulary, which I didn't really understand but which was so interesting to learn about," McCourt said. "They had a hero and a good sense of humor. When I was young I didn't really understand all that, but as I grew older I appreciated it a lot more."
The books got progressively longer and more intricate, which fit the reading capabilities of people in McCourt's generation. The seventh book, which many cite as their favorite and which is the basis for the final movie, concludes with an epic battle scene.
As the fans bid farewell to the franchise, with much waving of wands and many toasts of homemade butterbeer, they look back fondly on an adolescence shaped by Harry Potter and his cohorts.
"I read the books as I was growing up, so they definitely seemed to apply to me then, but I can also see them still pertaining to my life now," said Lasicki, who works at the University of Delaware. She drove from Delaware to Rochester, N.Y., to see the midnight premiere with her boyfriend.
"This series will continue to affect people for generations to come because its themes are so universal and timeless," says Allison McCague, Quidditch co-chair at UD. The 20-year-old even has a tattoo of the golden snitch, with the quote "I open with the close" on her shoulder.
Logan Weaver hopes her children read the books. "I honestly think reading the books when I first learned to read showed me how a different world could be opened through reading," she said.