I actually didn't get into the series until after I saw the first movie. My Mom had recommended them a while before this but, for no reason other than elementary school brattiness, I didn't want to read a book I hadn't found for myself. However, once I saw the movie I immediately to read the series. I was delighted to find that the books were even better-by about a million percent! This was about third grade. I quickly read all of the books that were out, which was up to the Goblet of Fire at that point. I absolutely fell in love with them. From then on, I went to every midnight release and usually ended up reading by flashlight most of the new book until I was too tired to comprehend anything. I was glued to those books. And I came to love the characters. I'm not lying, I literally threw The Order of the Phoenix across the room sobbing because they killed Sirius Black. And then picked it back up 10 minutes later because I had to know the end.
I loved those midnight releases. I would go with my dad, my friend Kelsey and her father. Kelsey and I would stand there eagerly discussing the books and our Dads would come up with their own theories of how the series would end designed to mess with us. I believe their favorite theory was that Harry would wake up from a dream to find he really was a muggle and Snape was the pedophile next door. We used to get so mad at that one.
I also watched every movie aside from the first one in theaters. My whole family went to see the second movie, but because I was the only one who really had an interest, only my Dad and I saw from three on. It became a sort of tradition for the two of us. We would go see the movie, and he would patiently listen to me rambling about how the movie was and was not like the book. It became one of my favorite parts of the summer.
I pretty much fell in love with the characters. Because they are real. No one is all good or all bad and no one is perfect. They are relatable. If Hermione could be valued for being smart and loving knowledge than there was no reason for me to hide my love of books. And if Ginny, the girl who started the series running from the room and hardly able to speak, could become a powerful witch and member of Dumbledoor's Army then I knew that I would be able to find my own power.
The last Harry Potter movie came out the summer before I left for college. And in a way that was perfect. It was an end to my childhood in a way, and definitely the end of an era. But Harry Potter will probably always influence me. After all, "you start to think anything's possible if you've got enough nerve"