The final Harry Potter book will be here in 14 days. To be at this moment is surreal. I started reading when there were only three of them, and became obsessed when there were only four. I've been to two book release parties and I've been at the midnight showing for every movie except the first one. I've written and read fan-fiction. I've evangelized the series to others and now have several friends who would not be HP fans but for my stubborn obsession. (Nevermind the many friends who might never read HP because of my obsession...)
Harry Potter is irrevocably intertwined with my memories of my freshman year of college. I remember coming home for Christmas break and downloading hundreds of pages of fanfiction onto 3.5 inch disks so that I could read in my room (where I had no internet). I remember making fan videos before youtube and fan videos were cool. I remember the shipping wars. I remember reading the books for the first time. You never get that first reading back.
Book 1: I remember thinking, throughout the entire book, "If Snape is the bad guy, this is the most predictable piece of children's crap ever written." He wasn't, and I was duly impressed.
Book 2: I don't remember much of my reactions while reading this actually. At the time, though, I was reading it aloud to my brother, and I remember his audible gasp when we found out that Tom Riddle was Lord Voldemort. I remember this distinctly. I miss me and Daniel reading Harry Potter together. I don't think he's even read the 6th book yet, and probably won't be terribly interested in the 7th.
Book 3: This book was simply incredible. I am still slightly stunned every time I reread the Shrieking Shack scene. The finale of this book convinced me of JKR's utter genius.
Book 4: Moody, Moody, Moody. Oh, to relive the moment I found out that Professor Moody was not Professor Moody. That's the excitement you can only get on a first read.
Book 5: This was spoiled for me by one Ms. Sarah Collins. Not (as of then) a fan of the books, she thought it no big deal, when I asked her to read to me while I was driving, to turn to the very end and hear Harry scream to Voldemort, "You killed my godfather!" The rest of the book, I could not help but worry for Sirius.
Book 6: I stayed up all night reading this, and went to bed, having been up nearly 24 hours, with few powers of reflection or consideration, depressed that Snape was, in fact, working for Lord Voldemort. Upon awaking and considering the book again, I realized that I was utterly wrong.
Book 7: Who knows what the ending will be. But, the "ending," that moment where you read, for the first time, how it all goes down, where everything you've read up to that point clicks into place, and things make sense... that can really only ever happen once. In fact, it might be something that can never happen for future generations of readers. For instance, if Harry dies (which, for the record, I don't think that he will), this will be common cultural knowledge. We all know Beth dies, we know Darth Vader is Luke's father, and we know that Rhett doesn't "give a damn." We know these things, even if we've never seen/read Star Wars, Little Women, or Gone With the Wind. Whatever happens to Harry it will be headline news and become simply a part of our culture. People starting the series will know whether Harry makes it out or not. We don't. We are perhaps unique here. I intend to make the ending of this book, the experience of reading it for the first time, count.