Harry Potter 20

I have recently been torn about my Hogwarts House. The latest Pottermore Sorting technology puts me in Ravenclaw. Wit, Learning, Wisdom. All very admirable qualities. But I have a sneaking suspicion I’m more than a little bit Hufflepuff. (Dedication, Patience, Loyalty) Most of the people I’m close to are Ravenclaw too. So I’m glad I would have company at least, to answer the questions posed at the common room door.


I have written extensively about Harry Potter before, but as today is 20 years since the release of The Philosopher’s Stone, I wanted to say some more words about what these books have meant to me!

(Here’s a piece from 2011 I wrote for the Derry News after the final film came out.) As I say here, my Harry Potter love story began 19 years ago with The Chamber of Secrets in the Shantallow Library. I remember it quite vividly! I was 9 years old.

Hogwarts completely captured my imagination, and more. I think everyone can relate to Harry’s isolation and struggles. Harry Potter was just as much of an escape from the real world for us muggles, as Hogwarts was escape from the Dursleys for Harry himself.

I remember the giddy excitement in the weeks before a new book was released. My Dad always preordered them for me. I read obsessively on Mugglenet and Harry Potter message boards about the hilarious escapades of those across the water in the USA and England queuing for their copies. The fun! I longed to go to a midnight release party, dressed up and the geeky community of it all.

Community. Connection. I think this is mostly why Harry Potter and the world JK Rowling created is so important. My friends are major Harry Potter geeks to this day. I’m 28 now. My best friend Aisling and I call each other Fred (me) and George (her) partly because she had a phase of giving everyone opposite sex names AND we used to and still do have eerily similar things happen in life. Fred and George Weasley were the twin brothers of Ron Weasley. Hilarious, ginger, hearts of gold.

My little sister Ellen (10), who’s a ‘word millionaire’ by the way, she’s read 1 million words in books according to her school <3, and I read the beautiful illustrated editions when I remember… Bad sister!

By coincidence my colleague Charlotte and I are going to London to see the play at the Palace Theatre The Cursed Child and The Harry Potter Studio Tour this week. Leaving tomorrow! It’s been booked for 10 months or so. And now I’m writing this instead of packing. Squeeee! I’m so excited and we have bonded so much already because of HP!

I know a boy who’s returning home from Finland tomorrow. He’s studied a semester there, and has spent a large portion of the last few weeks trying to find Durmstrang Institute… Or maybe that was his magical Erasmus exhange programme from Hogwarts. I hope he isn’t too addled with Dark Arts when I see him!

My George told me to dig out this email I sent her while she was in America for the summer when we were 15/16. It’s about the sixth book, but check my enthusiasm!

On Tuesday, 19 July 2005, 19:29,  <fiona—-@bt—t.com> wrote:

Heya George

Ok, as promised I’ll type out the stuff I wrote in my file block!! You’ll probably get bored, sorry! And it kinda looks like I hated it, but I didn’t really, or I’d be in a state of depression now! Here goes, *ahem*
Stuff about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to email Aisling about
1. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape all these years? I was waiting to hear a brilliant reason, and thought Snape might be good underneath! I was looking forward to hearing it! Now all the years of “I trust Severus Snape” mystery was for nothing… she seemed to be building up to something there! I’m amazed Dumbledore couldn’t see through the hook nosed, filthy greasy haired stuck up evil legitimens death eater! Come on, Dumbledore was perfect, infallible, until book 6 where he acted weird then ass hole killed him. I so miss him *sob* I cried when Dumbledore said “I’m not worried, I’m with you” to Harry. Premonition he was going to die. Cried again of course when he did.
2. There was way too much snogging! Half of it could have been left out! Plus, I’m way jealous of Tonks. I  love Lupin!! Hairy palms and all.
3. Dumbledore, God rest his soul, didn’t actually get around to telling the full story of his injured hand! He said once it was a great story and he didn’t have time, then he just mentioned it in passing! Say what now? I know it was destroying the ring…but still.
4. Why did Snape get the Defence Against the Dark Arts job? And we never saw him teaching a class did we? When he taught potions, nearly every class was written about! Hold on… could Dumbledore have been under the Imperius curse to trust Snape in this book and give him that job?
5. How come Lucius Malfoy’s still in Azkaban if the Dementors have left? Could he not escape. (I’m not demanding u answer these questions, by the way!)
6. Sirius!!! He was barely mentioned, I half hoped he would come back. And what about the two way mirrors?
That’s my initial thoughts anyway. I forgot about Trelawney…good point. She’s probably still standing there!! There are A LOT of unanswered questions!! But wasn’t “U-No-Poo” funny? The constipation sensation that’s gripping the nation!!! What a weird thing to happen to Bill, get your face mauled by a werewolf who wasn’t transformed… crazy!
Well, hope you enjoyed my fanatical musings, looking forward to hearing from you. Must go see if some Harry Potter message boards are open, see what other people think.
Talk soon
love ya
Fiona xoxo

Hilarious. I will probably never grow up.

Ok, I love this story of connection. Aisling/George has recently adopted an ADORABLE puppy. His name is Harry Pupper and he has his own instagram.  When she visited the family who owned the litter, she met a young girl, lets call her Katie. Katie is about 9 I think, and when she heard Aisling was calling her puppy Harry she was delighted. She is a big fan and said no one at school likes Harry Potter except her. Katie’s mum explained quietly to Aisling that Kate has Asperger’s Sydrome and children at school make it difficult for her. Katie happily renamed all the puppies in the litter, (and I was trying to convince my Mum to adopt Hagrid for a while). Katie’s dad is very ill, he has terminal cancer and Aisling could see that Katie was buoyed up by the world of Harry Potter and the connection Harry still felt with his parents even after death. Katie’s mum said Katie lit up while talking to Aisling and the world of Harry Potter really stimulated her imagination and communication. When my friend returned again to collect her new wee Harry, she came armed with some HP merchandise and handmade bookmarks saying, ‘Don’t let the muggles get you down.’ I’m not crying, you’re crying.

I think Harry Potter is so long lasting because it’s a story in these hard strange times where Good prevails. It’s a tale of hope, courage and friendship. And who could do without those right now?

Perhaps it’s a bit like my interest in The Walking Dead. We are drawn mor eto the lives and interactions of the characters and their lives than the magic, per se. Although the magic helps!

I have a funny story from work this week. Because of the anniversary we have some pretty nice merchandise like cauldron bowls, muggle studies notebooks, Gryffindor common room signs, cute mugs etc. There are also posters, one of which lists spells and charms and illustrates the wand movement required… So on a late Wednesday night, no customers about, I whip out a rolled up poster and start practising my REPARO wand movement. (Quite swirly) My friend/colleague Chelsea rounds the corner. ‘Are you…dancing?’ No, Chelsea. It’s worse than that… Please don’t tell every…Oh, never mind. Ha!

I would say my favourite book is The Prisoner of Azkaban maybe it’s because it’s the book before they start getting super dark. But also Harry meets his Godfather Sirius. Which is fraught with terror for a while until he understands. Also time travel, I have discovered is one of my favourite themes.

My favourite character is Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.  He is like Atticus Finch where wisdom is concerned. Gentle and twinkly, brave and always there… All the best quotes come from him, too.

From Etsy here

Congratulations on 20 years, JK Rowling. You’re a real hero of mine. Lumos ❤ Keep being a light to children and big children everywhere. And thank you.


Career of Evil – Strike 3

I was biding my time, waiting to read this, as I didn’t want the series to be over. (For now) Once again, I absolutely loved it. This is the first time Robert Galbraith/ JK Rowling had the villain speak in alternate chapters, and what a scary dude. She says it’s the first time her own writing has given her nightmares.

When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible- and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the three other men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them.

I am perhaps more interested in the unlikely Cormoran and Robin’s undeniable chemistry than the cases, the characters are wonderfully developed and the plot really draws you in, and keeps you guessing. Robin’s wedding to Matthew is looming and neither Robin nor Cormoran seem too happy about it.

Robin is such a brilliant character, we finally find out why she abandoned her Psychology degree, and why she sticks with seemingly reliable accountant Matthew. I really love that she has advanced driving training and self defence.

Maybe it’s the major girl in me but I love the passages where they are grabbing a quick bite to eat in a pub, always well described, (Strike loves his grub) and usually a pint of Doom Bar or glass of wine as they update each other on Donald Laing, Noel Brockbank and Jeff Whittaker.

These are three seriously dangerous men, the first one Strike is responsible for getting life imprisonment, second a suspected paedophile who blames Strike for brain damage, and the third, ex-husband of Strike’s super-groupie mother Leda, whom he suspects killed her.

The leg owner’s body turns up, seemed she had BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder) otherwise known as amputee identity disorder, she felt that she was meant to be disabled, and she wanted to amputate her leg. She believed that Strike, also an amputee (Afghanistan) had done the deed himself, she had tried to contact him and someone had replied.

It’s a really fast paced and keeps you guessing. More women are killed, sometimes we see it happen as the unnamed killer goes about his horrible misogynistic business.


I loved all three of the Cormoran Strike (Or should we say Robin Ellacott) novels, and feel they get better and better. It wouldn’t even be necessary to read them in order, as Galbraith does a wonderful job of updating the story without being repetitive.

The writing is often funny, and there are other dramas such as the few day to day cases that Strike and Robin are following, a spurned father stalking his children, and a suspicious boyfriend distrustful of his stripper girlfriend.

Strike always has an hallelujah moment near the closing chapters, but the author doesn’t tell us his conclusion straight away, and the timing and suspense is very well executed.

Another interesting theme is, the book is named after a song by Blue Oyster Cult, and there are references to tattoos and obsessions in the book, and each chapter opens with a short lyric from Blue Oyster Cult’s back catalogue. A lot of times the lyrics are by Patti Smith.

I was surprised and delighted with the revelation of  the identity of the killer. And the question mark about Robin and Strike is underlined more than ever by the end. Loved it!

More Potter?

**May contain Harry Potter spoilers**

So what do we all make of Pottermore? I’ve been trying to look up theories but I’m not coming up with anything interesting! I personally hope that if not a new book, some piece of writing at least from J.K Rowling. No, I am hoping for a book. I read that Scholastic has ruled this out, but I shall cling on to hope. I don’t particularly want another Harry Potter book, the finality of it is looming with the release of the Deathly Hallows 2 film next month. A little part of me died when I finished book 7 I must say. But another visit to the Wizarding World in book form would be interesting… however, it must be about Harry…or at least the Potters (Pottermore.) Ooh, perhaps some kind of prequel?

I can’t see myself getting overly excited for a website, no matter how great it is. Yes, an encyclopedia would be fascinating and J.K Rowling’s website was pretty impressive, especially when you had to work out all the codes and riddles for upcoming book titles etc…Ah those were the days. But unless the website keeps us up to date with Harry’s current life (His birthday is 1980 apparently, so he’s 31 now!) I’m finding it hard to imagine it being anything astounding. Would be happy to be proved wrong, however.

I’m quite enjoying the mystery surrounding it. It’s oh so very J.K don’t you think? She is making an annoucement on Thursday…the day I get my exam results, and will probably be in Belfast, to move out and hopefully attend a wedding…

So, got any Pottermore theories? And aren’t you just SO excited for Deathly Hallows Part 2?

Dear Mr Potter

“Dear Mr. Potter: Letters of Love, Loss, and Magic,” a book featuring letters and pictures from Harry Potter fans around the world focusing on how the Harry Potter series has impacted and inspired its fans, will be released Summer 2011 with all proceeds benefiting the Harry Potter Alliance.

Dear Mr. Potter is a blog-based charity project that focuses on J.K. Rowling’s life-changing Harry Potter series, and how it has impacted, inspired, and affected its fans. For nine months, Dear Mr. Potter has collected the sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching, always incredible stories of the Harry Potter series’ biggest fans through letters and photographs, among other mediums. Each submission tells a different a Potter fan’s unique story and journey.

For those of you who don’t know, Dear Mr. Potter is a non-profit book to benefit the Harry Potter Alliance. The book contains hundreds of letters and pictures from Harry Potter fans from around the world, telling how the series has impacted and inspired them. New York Times-bestselling author John Green, Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance, Paul DeGeorge of Harry and the Potters, and Andrew Sims of MuggleNet are just a few of the recognizable names whose letters you’ll be able to see in the book. It’ll be available for pre-order in a few days.

This fills me with excitement! It’s a rather postsecret-esque cover/idea isn’t it? Harry Potter and post/letters ! My favourites. Just the other day I found @dearmrpotter on Twitter and I was intrigued. You can visit the website here.

As an English (and Philosophy) undergraduate, I know I may be widely frowned upon for reading and enjoying the Harry Potter books. I will admit that in recent years I have grown a little distant from Harry, but his story will always hold a special place in my heart and if I have my own children, I will happily pass on my battered books as they near that all important 11th birthday.

I won’t say that J.K Rowling opened reading up to me, I’ve been a bookworm as long as I remember. I’m not sure exactly when I discovered Harry Potter, I started with the 2nd book, The Chamber of Secrets, I was at the Shantallow Library and I remember that I had heard something about it, so I borrowed it.  That book came out in 1998 – oh I have just Wikipedia’d it – I remember my cousin Edel buying the Prisoner of Azkaban when it came out – in 1999 – and I anxiously waited for her to finish it so I could read it. ( I must not have had any money in 1999) This means I was 9 when I started reading Harry Potter- between 1998-1999. Aw.

I had a go at writing a letter:

Dear Mr Potter,

I guess I am a little late with my letter submission, but I think you still deserve a wee line or two.  I have just discovered that I discovered you when I was 9 years old. The name Harry Potter rang a bell with me and I checked out Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A quiet and shy child, books were my friends and I loved nothing more than to escape into them.

I soon went back to read the first installment, and was fascinated with the idea of a boy finding out he is not who he thinks he is and escaping to an exciting world of magic, friends, danger and fame. I remember my cousin and I used to have deep conversations about the goings -on at Hogwarts, and the third book The Prisoner of Azkaban floored me. The plot was so intricate with the time travel at the end, and the fear of Sirius Black and the shock and excitement and possibility for Harry that he had a guardian in the world he belonged to.

I know that everyone has said this, but my 11 year old self longed for that letter. My heart hurt with wanting to hold that parchment and look at Dumbledore’s signature and board the Hogwarts Express to my new life. Part of me knew the truth, but part of me hoped. I felt sorry for the kids that wrote to J.K Rowling begging her to tell Dumbledore that he had overlooked them, but I understood it too. 11 is a lonely time, and then it turned to even just wanting a white owl that would keep me company, and swoop into the night, returning with fat letters from friends.

Not living in America, there were no midnight book launches or dressing up for me. My Daddy pre-ordered each book for me, and they usually came on sunny July Saturdays, and I skipped out to the Amazon man who smiled as he handed over a brown package, each bigger than the last. I tried not to gobble the book up in one go, closing it firmly when there were only a few chapters left, but I think 2 days was my maximum.

I probably shouldn’t have worried. The dissecting and discussion and frustrations that came after reading were often as fun as the reading itself. I knew this was about somewhere…my friend @AlfieMcDuffs went to Chicago for the summer in 2005. The summer we were 15 and the summer the penultimate book came out. I came across this today – a list – I knew I had it here somewhere, and it made me LOL.


Stuff about Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince to email Aisling (In America) about.

1. Why did Dumbledore trust Snape all these years? I was sure there was some shocking reason why Snape was good-hearted underneath and was thoroughly looking forward to having that explained. Now all that years of “I trust Severus Snape” mystery was for nothing. I’m disappointed Dumbledore couldn’t see through the filthy, hook-nosed, greasy haired stuck up evil death eater. Dumbledore was supposed to be perfect, infallible, but he acted weird the whole book, then ass-hole kills him. I sure miss Dumbledore, though.

2. There was way too much snogging. It was uncalled for, and had nothing to do with the plot. Plus, I’m way jealous of Tonks. I heart Lupin! Hairy palms and all!

3. Dumbledore, God rest him, didn’t actually get around to telling the proper story of his blackened hand, just the bare bones of it. (no pun intended)

There is more but these are the funniest. The book came out two days before this. I was emailing Aisling, but I’m glad I wrote it all down ! Hours of enjoyment discussing the fine details of the book and quoting the funniest parts. This leads me on to the twin thing. Around this time Aisling gave all her female friends boy’s names and vice versa? Firstly I was Alfred or Albert or something. She was George. Then we realised Fred would be good for me, like Fred and George, the identical twin brothers of Ron Weasley. So I became Fred and to this day Aisling is saved in my contacts as George. After that time a lot of freaky twin things happened to us!  Even when she went back to America, or went to Belfast when I was in Derry etc. Also Fred and George are HILARIOUS, as are we 🙂

Image from here

“You’re a prefect? Oh Ronnie! That’s everyone in the family!” [Molly Weasley]
“What are Fred and I? Next door neighbours?”

So just a thank you, Harry for keeping me company when I was growing up, for giving me hope that good will overcome bad, and for showing that you can be a hero and make a big difference even if you are reluctant and confused and don’t know what’s happening half the time!



I probably could go on forever about the Harry Potter books. I don’t want to sound overly obsessive! They were a big part of my life and my geekiness comes out every now and then. I’m glad I am a part of it, I have the greatest respect for J.K Rowling, I think she is a genius for creating a whole world like that. And I actually love her writing.

Thanks for bearing with me – I think I’m going to preorder that Dear Mr Potter book…

Oh, Happy Easter Everyone!