I was in middle school when I started reading Harry Potter, a little while before Goblet of Fire came out (in fact, I'm pretty sure I went to the midnight release of that one). It wasn't the first book series I fell in love with, and it definitely wasn't what started me reading, but it had a HUGE impact on my life. It was the first time I realized just how much books could transcend the page.
I lived, ate and breathed Harry in high school. My best friends read the series too, and I can't even count how many hours we spent analyzing all the details. We knew what all the mythology meant, and we had a notebook full of predictions for how the series would end (almost none of which came true). One of my friends denied the ending of the fifth book ever happened; I denied the ending of the sixth book. We went to midnight releases for at least five movies and three or four books (we did not, however, wear costumes. That's where I drew the line, though it was more about laziness than embarrassment).
Harry Potter was also my first real introduction to fanfiction. Before that, I'd dappled in Digimon fanfiction (don't judge), but I didn't become serious about it until I got involved with the Harry Potter scene. Guys, I've written a lot of fanfiction, and I have no regrets. Fanfiction taught me a lot about writing and a lot about the world. My first introduction to erotica was through fanfiction, as was my introduction to hatred and homophobia. I learned how to shrug off critiques and how to take constructive criticism. I learned about writing on a schedule because I had people who were anticipating new chapters (I was not good at this part. I was very not good at this part).
And I learned that there were other people who were as nerdy as I was. They weren't just online; I met some real life friends who wrote fanfiction too. Other Harry Potter geeks who weren't content just to wait for the next book to come out. Our stories were elaborate and often only tangentially related to the series, and they consumed hours of our time. Just last week, I found notebooks I'd set aside for a five-book fanfiction series I'd wanted to work on (Hermione/Snape, which was not my normal ship... I was Ron/Hermione before it was cool).
I think almost everybody has a story about Harry Potter; it's that influential. If we're the sum of everything that happens to us, I can't even begin to fathom what my life would be now without it. It's a book series I still look to as an example of what I could achieve with a lot of talent, a great story, and a little luck.
What are some of your Harry Potter memories?