During winters, the thing that I miss the most is Hogwarts.
The nostalgia to return to the magical world begins as early as September, when the school is supposed to start. It goes on and on until Christmas is upon us, and that’s when I crave to be a part of the Wizarding world. It’s something to do with the lighting and the air, I think – it’s wonderfully tentative, quite how I imagine autumn in Scotland. And the leaves flutter – ever so slightly. It’s not hot, so you know it’s a chilled wind blowing. The fog forms another part of the nostalgia: it makes me dream of snow. I can see the castle, decked up in dozens of trees, brought in by Hagrid and decorated by Professor Flitwick. The sky in the dining hall will be huge, and endless – and vast! It would reach into the very heavens – literally.
When I was growing up, I used to read Harry Potter. Harry Potter got me into the business of reading, providing an outlet for my imagination, for my almost violent need to escape, be a part of some sort of magic.
And nothing can ever replicate those early adventures into Harry’s world. I didn’t have a lot of friends in school – dreadfully tragic, isn’t it? The very beginning of a philosophical movie that delves deep into the escapism of a young girl. I didn’t have friends, in any case – I had a few, but they were sort of – bullies. I’m not quite certain how to characterize our relationship, but it certainly wasn’t healthy.
So, when I was growing up – I had Harry.
It’s funny how books can save your lives, or change them. I don’t remember a time before Harry Potter. I remember, vaguely, watching the movies and not caring to read the books. I remember my Dad buying me the first one for one of my birthdays. And I have done the mathematical calculations as to when I should have read it – based on solid memories. I have a very distinct memory of showing my second grade teacher that I was reading Chamber of Secrets. I must have been seven then, so I have deduced that I ought to have read it sometime then.
I don’t remember when I met Harry for the first time. I don’t remember what, exactly transpired between him and me in his small cupboard under the stairs. I don’t remember what happened that got me so hooked. Mamma had to convince me to get through the first ten pages, and that is something I definitely remember. Sometime around the snake escaping the zoo – I think – I became part of Harry’s world.
I remember meeting Ron for the first time, I remember meeting Hermione. I remember thinking that Ron and Hermione would be perfect – they fought entirely too much to be anything else. I remember when it rained in the castle, the Quidditch pitch would become muddy and Oliver wouldn’t be happy at all. I remember Peeves, and I remember crying with laughter at some of Harry’s more sarcastic comments.
I think I remember the castle in a way that I don’t think is quite possible. In a world of small spaces, tiny areas designated for thoughts – Hogwarts expanded before me like a huge and inviting mess. Nothing about it made sense, even lesser was palpable and understandable. It was huge and complex, and in between the spaces that Hogwarts provided, I’m fairly certain I found me.
But it wasn’t mine. Hogwarts was gigantic, and enormous, and part of it was mine – and it was the most satisfying way to deal with my problems. But at some point, I think I wanted to create my own space. Hogwarts gave me the encouragement I needed – the breathing space to imagine a new space. And that, I think is when I started writing.
Fifth grade was when the seventh book was released. It was all over, and Hogwarts wasn’t there – as a growing thing. I hadn’t discovered fanfiction then, and I think I wanted more. So – I wrote.
I wrote because I found – in brief instances, that the sky could be so beautiful, and I wondered whether it was the same at Hogwarts. I wrote because Harry and I stared at the same moon – across dimensions, across realities – and I wrote because everything was so terribly beautiful. I wrote as a scream into the void – in hopes that someone else was listening – or – or someone would answer back.
My initial forays into these worlds I created were difficult. They didn’t transition well, the worlds were stacked together and odd. I began imagining them from fifth and fourth grade itself. And in sixth, I was writing. I was writing – and I was writing with an intensity that neither of my parents had thought possible. My father was surprised that my initial story writing endeavour had entered nearly fifty pages.
I got the grasp of the idea, eventually, obviously. I understood how it functioned, and I started to make sense of it. I wrote more, and more, and more. I didn’t stop for so long that I didn’t quite know how not to. I was writing horribly and chunkily and with no skill, but with the determination that I had to recreate Hogwarts. I had to find it again – I had to go back to the castle, and yes, maybe it wasn’t Harry that I found again – but god help me if I didn’t find me.
This intense foray into the world of my imagination – where murder was recreated alongside magic is fantastically interesting. But the thing that prompted this, as usual, is Hogwarts.
And yes, it’s more fun to create your own. It’s enjoyable to write constantly until your keyboard burns (I’m not kidding, my last laptop has a barely functioning keyboard), and it’s amazing to find yourself in these huge swathes of imagination – but sometimes – it’s nice to go back home again. It’s like returning to your home town: you know that there’s so many things that are problematic, so many issues that you’re not entirely comfortable with, and hell, you have grown too much for you to live there anymore, but damn it all if it’s not a comfort to be back from time to time.
Written by Tanvi Chowdhary
Image by Aanchal Juneja