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Why Hogwarts is better the second time through

I’m re-reading Harry Potter—or maybe more to the point, re-listening (thanks, Audible!). It’s better this time through, because with time away from the originals, the stories have settled in. You get to savor the small things you’ve forgotten, and the major events that seemed so innocuous the first time through swing with all the more force.

Ginny’s shyness around Harry? It’s a better scene knowing they’ll one day wed (same, Ron’s defense of Hermione against Malfoy’s malicious use of “mudblood”). The first meetings between Harry and Snape are touched with more sadness; I’m left to wonder how different things could have been if either had tried harder to understand the other.

More poignant the second time through—that is a good thing to aim for in a story. It signifies your characters have grown; that real tragedies and real triumphs have occurred; that they have miles yet to travel, and we’re just getting started.

I suspect this second-read-through joy is more potent in long-series formats—and in stories that follow characters starting young (for example, M.A. Ray’s Saga of Menyoral series). Something to chew on if you write that sort of thing. I’ve tried to capture a similar sense of passed time and missed opportunities using a “part one” and “part two” format that are set in different periods of a character’s life, but I’m not sure it has the same weight.

Foreknowledge in a good story seems to sharpen the knife, doesn’t it? Question for the comments: what’s the most bittersweet re-read you’ve ever had?

Published inBooksReadingStorycraft


  1. Great points. I’ve read Potter at least four times. Book seven accompanied me through two labor and deliveries. So I can certainly agree with your reasons. I also enjoy reading Rowling again because of her level of detail. I tend to rush-read my first few times through a series, so an author with lots of detail gives me more juice to suck up the second time around.

  2. MND169 MND169

    Anne McCaffery’s Damia. It’s the second book in the (I think they finally settled on calling it the Tower Series) and it span’s almost the titular character’s entire life. And the second time it made me cry like a baby knowing what was coming.

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