Many years ago in a not so far away place, lived a sickly child. This lonely child longed for friends as her classmates and peers turned her away with their taunts. Each day ended with tears from all the bitter, stinging words. Her heart filled with deepest longing for what seem unattainable. A friend she would make, if only for a time. Then the next one, then the next, until she was all alone. The schoolyard jeering echoed in her mind long after school had ended, for she couldn’t move on. Alone she was, or so she thought, and thus she sought to escape her pain. Each day a new excuse, more drastic as days went on, any reason she could muster to escape the hellscape known as school. Her throat burned from the vomit forced up each morning. A fair price to pay to escape the torment.

So it was that much school was missed, many days she was absent. Until one day, upon returning, she was given the assignment that would change her life. They had started reading a new book in her absence, a tale known as Harry Potter. Her task, read the book and create her own candy for the trolley. And thus she embarked on a journey that would consume her. Each page she devoured of the thrilling tale laid before her. As the book drew to a close, her hunger for more grew insatiable. She devoured the books available and thus began her very first love.

For in these books, she found her friends. There was the girl who reminded her so much of herself. Bookish, smart, brave, bullied. Hermione, they called her (though it would be a few more years before she had confirmation that her pronunciation was correct). The girl with the bushy hair and big teeth who had been picked on and cast out. Then there was the red-haired boy, the child lonely in a crowd of others. Though he had little, he was generous and kind. Completing the trio was the messy haired orphan. A boy who had lived his life in torture only to find that there was something so much more out there waiting for him. A future filled with hope and love and friends, all things he never thought he would have. It was here that our young girl found her friends, from the pages of a book rose trusted companions.

As the years went on, these friendships were always there to welcome her home. She devoured each new book the moment it appeared on shelves. Two years after meeting her friends, she got to see them come to life on screen, the world she dreamed about brought into being. Her books became worn with use far more quickly than would be expected. The first read again and again until she lost count somewhere after fifty times. She watched the movies until she could recite them word for word. For every gift-giving occasion, she received memorabilia to unite her with her friends. She collected stacks of board games inspired by the series. There were the trading cards she gathered, organized and perfect. There were snow globes and figures and toys and more. Her life taken over by the book assigned as homework.

Her friends remained confined to the pages of books, so her mother played her games with her for there was no one else to play with. Yet, hours they would spend on these silly games she always won. For in these times, her face came alight and the worries of life dripped off her shoulders. It was in her engagement with this beloved series that she found joy and happiness and love. In a world that tormented and bruised and broke her, she took refuge in this magical land.

Harry Potter was my first love, my first special interest. Hogwarts my home, and the trio my best of friends. For they were there when no one else was. When friends came and went, these book characters waited to welcome me home. These books were a refuge amongst so much bullying and pain. A magical land of adventure that spoke to the young child who knew she was different, never understanding why.

Special interests are love, in such a pure and beautiful form. An all-consuming, passionate love that feeds the soul and heals our wounds. Our special interests form us as we are. They transform and change us so that they become part of us, consuming heart, soul, and mind. Special interests are passion and fire and devotion. Special interests are comfort and peace and home.

Harry Potter was my first love, my first special interest. Today, on his birthday, and the birthday of his creator, I say thank you. Thank you for the friends who have never left me. Thank you for the world I call home. Thank you for adventure and imagination that carried me through my darkest times. Thank you.