21 July 2011
It’s a story that is, by now, well known. The young woman, travelling through England on a train, when a story pops into her head. A boy, a magic castle. With no pen, she lets those beginning ideas roll through her head, the start of the story of Harry Potter. She never could have imagined, then, how that journey and that boy would change her life. How far she’s come. With her words, this young woman, Jo, brought magic into the world and into the hearts of so many young people, who desperately needed a Hogwarts to which they could escape. My dad was the first to bring me that magic. It was the summer of 2000, the middle of July, and we had just moved from Texas to Colorado. After living in hotels and travelling a bunch, we finally got a house on base, and I think part of the reason my dad got us the books was to keep my sister and I occupied while he worked on moving everything and painting and other such stuff. I was a desperately shy child. While my sister was the one going outside and introducing herself to the kids in our cul-de-sac, I stayed holed up in our half-furnished bedroom, reading whatever books we had (I mean, she read the books that summer, too, but I definitely…stayed holed up with them). It took me a little while to get excited about the book (the first chapter is not the most exciting opening chapter of a book), but soon I was drawn into the world of Hogwarts and its magic. I read each word, clutching the book, drawn to a friend because he loved the books too. In those early years, as a 7 year old, I desperately wanted Hogwarts to be real. I “played Harry Potter” on the playground with friends, imagined people were Death Eaters, and waited anxiously for a letter to Hogwarts. Sure, even at that young age I knew magic couldn’t exist, that there weren’t really witches and wizards and Voldemort, but I so desperately wanted that world because I found friends there. In the magic world of Harry and Ron and Hermione, I found refuge. I travelled along with them without ever leaving my home, learning valuable lessons of courage and love and loss. I wrote to Jo Rowling as a young girl, desperately wanting to talk to this author who had begun to define my childhood. I was ridiculously happy to get that generic response and picture back from her, even if I knew she hadn’t actually read my letter. To see her signature and feel that thick parchment was like a small wave from a different world. It was Jo telling me that I could create Hogwarts for myself. She was letting me know that the magic was in me, and I didn’t need a wand to bring it out. It would take another 4 years for me to truly realize that and carry out those words of wisdom, but I knew it deep down. For years, I was a private, though enthusiastic, Harry Potter fan. Still desperately shy in my preteen and early teen years, I didn’t know how to show my passion. Sure, as a kid I’d made friends because of Harry, but it was no longer “cool” to admit that you liked Harry Potter. I desperately needed a Hogwarts to escape to, but my eleventh birthday came and went and my wishes went unanswered. Of course Hogwarts didn’t really exist in Scotland, but I couldn’t stop hoping… And then…Hogwarts became a real place. In 2007, I discovered the fandom. I discovered PotterCast and Wrock and The Leaky Cauldron. I posted incessantly on the LeakyLounge, joining in and sometimes writing their chapter discussions, becoming “Resident Luna Biographer.” I was making friends again. Through the combined magic of the internet and Harry Potter, I wasn’t so alone anymore. 2008, I went to Terminus. And there, I feel I truly did discover Hogwarts. For Hogwarts isn’t a place, but a feeling and a state of mind. It’s a place where anyone can be accepted, regardless of any superficial traits society usually judges people on. It’s a place where you find people so like you, who want to be your friend, discuss topics, and work together to make the world a better place. I finally had my Hogwarts. I finally had my classmates. Wrockstock, LeakyCon, Wrockstock again, going to concerts…I had discovered a type of magic in my life. We cried together, laughed together, danced together, worked together to change the world through the Harry Potter Alliance. We got in trouble, had adventures, and travelled places we might not have otherwise. We discovered parts of ourselves that had been pushed away to fit in with the Muggle world. At Hogwarts, we became ourselves. Hogwarts is real, for us. So, no. I never got an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, brought to me by an owl. I never walked down Diagon Alley, strolled the corridors of the castle, sat down to tea with Hagrid. But that didn’t matter much anymore. Because I got an acceptance letter of a different kind. I got a letter of acceptance from the fandom, from my fellow fans telling me they loved me and wanted me around them. I had a place to escape, people to talk to, and a whole life of love ahead of me. That’s what the magic was. I didn’t have a physical Hogwarts, but I had everything about Hogwarts I loved. As Jo had told me with her words so many years before, I could, and did, carry the magic inside myself. It’s no secret that Harry has helped me “through all the hard times,” as RiddleTM so wisely sings. With Harry, I learned over and over again how to grieve. Dumbledore’s wisdom showed me that life went on, that the dead never truly leave our world. We keep them alive. We have the magic to do that. And whenever I lost hope, Harry helped me realize there was still something, someone, worth fighting for. Hogwarts would always be there, waiting for me, no matter how hard the times. Dark days, truly, but always I could find a safe haven in that magical world. There is magic in our world. The magic of words that say so much more than the letters give away. The magic of a hug, a smile, a dance. The magic of rain falling. The magic of music and how it can change our world. The magic of a spirit living on long after it’s dead, living on in me, simply because I will not forget. The books are over. The movies are over. We have Pottermore to look forward to, but many people are treating this past week as if Harry’s magic is ending. But I don’t believe it is. As Harry and Dumbledore taught me, nothing is ever lost. As long as I remember Harry and his friends, as long as I carry their story with me, the story will never be over. Not for me. I can let the story continue as long as I choose. That’s the magic in our world. Because of Harry, I’ve made friends. I’ve learned how to fly after I’ve fallen. I’ve had so many experiences and adventures. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed. I’ve recovered from the darkest days of my life. Harry brought me so much. For 11 years. 11 years. After all that time, I haven’t forgotten his magic. So, no, I don’t think I ever will. We’re the Hogwarts Class of 2011, yes. It’s been 4 years since the last book came out, and we cried over Fred and Lupin and Harry’s courage. The movies are over, bringing yet more tears. But, the magic of Hogwarts lives within us. We will never leave those hallways, not really. It’s our home, the one place most of us ever found refuge. We saw ourselves in Neville, Luna, Hermione, Tonks, Dawlish… We learned how to fly. “It’s the end of an era, and I’m seeing clearer that nothing will ever be the same.” ~Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls Certainly, nothing ever will be the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the magic. The magic lives on. There is magic in our world. Jo, you taught me how to look for it and bring it out. You taught me how to let it live in my heart and soul. I can’t thank you enough for that, Jo. But these stories and these characters have not left our world. The words continue to spin magic, bring about change, be a comforting wave and hug. We are the Harry Potter generation, and as long as we do not let this magic end, it never will. “The stories we love best live in us forever. So whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.” — Jo Rowling Hogwarts is our home. The magic is in our hearts. It’s real for us, no matter what the Muggles think. Carry that magic with you for the rest of your life, and you’ll never truly be alone.