In the days following July 21, thousands of readers of all ages turned the last page of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," concluding both Harry's journey and their own.
Though Harry's adventures spanned seven school years, some readers have been with Harry since 1997, the year the first installment of the not-then popular series was published. Fans who are now in college were just the right age to start the books when "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was published, and have now had Harry by their side for 10 long years.
While the first few books may have been typical, episodic children's books with happy endings, the series grew more complex in both writing and emotion. As plot twists got more complicated, so did Harry's character, a reason why readers who are now college-aged have, as Rowling states in the seventh book's dedication, "stuck with Harry until the very end."
In a recent Entertainment Weekly article, novelist Stephen King of Bangor, Maine, commented that the books "ceased to be specifically for children halfway through the series; by 'Goblet of Fire,' Rowling was writing for everyone, and knew it." King also stated his belief that the series' success, apart from the author's talent, is due to the fact that "Jo Rowling's kids grew up...and the audience grew with them."
"It isn't a little kid's thing we happen to read," said Maggie Crosland '10. "When I went to the midnight opening [for the 'Deathly Hallows'] they were all young adults."
Growing up with Harry, however, makes saying goodbye to him all the more difficult.
"You get to know him so well," said Katie Gundersen '10. "All those pages, all those books, and you're in his head the whole time...he's like your best friend."
"He's so infinitely relatable," she added. "There's no kid alive who hasn't at some point felt isolated or alone."
The Facebook group "PPD: Post Potter Depression" has more than 9,000 members and is only one of the many Web sites devoted to fans' despair over the conclusion of the series. (Rowling has, however, announced plans to publish a Harry Potter encyclopedia.)
"What's been so unique about being in the Harry Potter generation is that for most people our age, and a little older and a little younger, there are certain books and TV shows that you can like but that you can't talk about socially...but with Harry Potter, you can," said Crosland.
"It's such an integral part of our generation at this point," said Reeham Motaher '10. "Everyone connects over Harry Potter. I like how it's a building point."
Though feelings of sadness may have characterized the end of the seventh book for many readers, they are also awed by the cultural phenomenon that they have taken part in.
"The day the last book came out, people did not want to be talked to," Gundersen remembered. "The fact that a book caused so many people to avoid the TV and Internet...that in itself is a magical thing. That's so amazing that a book was able to do that."
"It was a cult following of completely different ages of people," said Eric Reid '10. "I think it'll be really interesting to see where the publishing industry goes from here?if they try to recreate it or if something new comes along."
Will fans continue to reread the books now that the series is over? The answer from most readers was a resounding "yes."
"I personally really do want to," said Motaher. "I want to piece together the whole thing."
Though rereading may not be the same as waiting in line at midnight for the next book, fans do discover new meaning and moments each time.
"When I was rereading book five, I was floored," Motaher said.