Pottermore bewitches the Web

By the time Enrique V. was in the seventh grade, he thought he had hit bottom.

“No friends, life was rough, things were happening left and right,” he said. “I was basically just slowly killing myself.” The memory of that time still pains him; he refuses to say anything more about it.

But it was during this time that Enrique turned to a series of books he’d originally discovered at age seven, when his aunt had given him a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a Christmas present.

“It was like opening up the front door of a house, and seeing the family that will never leave you,” he said. “Of course, things have gotten better since then. But the one quote that will always stick with me and helped me out of the funk was my favorite Dumbledore quote: ‘Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’ Personally, that quote hit hard. And it’s one of the things that kept me going.”

For Enrique, the dark is past. He is now a sophomore and set to star in Cadre Kerr’s upcoming production of Macbeth. He remains, however, an ardent fan of the Harry Potter books and movies. And along with millions of other “Potterheads,” he is eagerly awaiting the day when the Potter fandom takes on a new dimension: Pottermore.

 Open to the public in October, Pottermore (found at www.pottermore.com/) is an interactive website through which fans from all over the world will be able to rediscover the books, now accompanied by author J.K. Rowling’s long-hoarded notes.

In July, Enrique competed in Pottermore’s Magical Quill Challenge and was granted early access to the site. He describes the experience of Pottermore as “exploring the chapters of the books through artwork, and unlocking special bonus content.” Pottermore members will also be able to interact with each other and participate in activities such as dueling, making potions and Sorting into a Hogwarts house.

Like many who competed for early access, Enrique experienced delays between registration and access. He predicts that the same problem will arise again once Pottermore opens to the general public.

“They’re taking so freaking long,” he said. “People are gonna be frustrated.”

Sophomore Michelle T. also applied for early access, but says that she is willing to wait it out.

“I’m not really frustrated,” she said. “The whole experience is free, so I don’t really care that it’s late.”

Michelle discovered the Harry Potter series in the fifth grade at the recommendation of her older brother. While a little confusing for her at first, “I actually started really getting into the story, and I don’t know—it’s like the way she writes, it pulls you in, and it makes you feel like her world is real, like…magic is real.”

Social studies teacher Karen Evans believes that the fandom’s appeal lies in its ability to empower.

“[In Harry Potter] there’s the same thing you see in anime—a young and mistreated child develops magical powers in a hidden world that those who mistreated him can’t reach,” she said.  “It’s very much a kind of ‘sword in the stone’ theme.”

Regardless of reason, many have nonetheless bought into Rowling’s world and hope to discover more of it through Pottermore.

“I have a lot of questions, and usually when I mail Rowling I know that I can’t get the answers that I want to know,” freshman Camille N. said. “I have [written to Rowling before] but I think she only responds if you ask for an autograph. She doesn’t have enough time to write down, like, a full, meaningful letter to you back…So I guess Pottermore will be fine for me.”

Camille found the books at age five and has followed both the books and movies through to their conclusions.

“Seriously, they’re like my childhood,” she said. It is a sentiment she shares with other students.

“It’s such a nice change!” she said. “Like seriously, when I was at Hearne or Budewig or O’Donnell, people would usually make fun of me for it, like making up stupid names for Harry. I just felt really mad because they don’t understand; I grew up with Harry, he helped me in so many ways…Now I’ve made it to Kerr and they understand what it was like to grow up with Harry—to grow up with such a wonderful role model. I’m really glad about making the choice to come to Kerr. I can’t even think of a better school.”

She paused, and then added, “Besides Hogwarts.”

Enrique feels a similar solidarity with his fellow Potterheads.

“It brings that sense of unity,” he said. “You make a connection with people on a level other people don’t realize.” He hopes that Pottermore will make this even easier. “It’ll be more accessible. You’re gonna be more connected. Maybe huge events can happen through it.”

For him, though, Pottermore will be, first and foremost, “the same thing the books were: some way to find…another door into that magical world.”