Ever since my dad introduced my brother and me to an addictive new bedtime story fifteen years ago, one thing has remained constant: I never stopped hoping for my Hogwarts letter.
I remember waiting in line at the theater for the first movie, ready for the magic to come to life. I remember watching it on VHS, pausing on every single brick Hagrid tapped in the Diagon Alley entrance and noting it in my journal so that when I found that entrance, I would be able to get in. I played Harry Potter at recess, and after school I searched the forest for the best twig-wands, mixed potions in the bathroom sink and carried around stacks of the largest books I could find, calling myself Hermione. The tree in the corner of the playground was The Whomping Willow and that scar I’ve had on my forehead since before I can remember? That was given to me by the darkest wizard there is.
At some point—maybe it was after my owl got lost delivering my letter—I stopped waving around sticks. But no matter how old I grew or how much my life changed, I could always relate to the boy in the cupboard under the stairs in the moments when I felt invisible and to bushy haired Hermione when I felt underappreciated for my love of books and knowledge. From the first time that he stands up to his friends to the moment he pulls out the sword of Gryffindor in the Battle of Hogwarts, I thought of Neville each time I felt like an underdog—I always, always rooted for him.
I remember wanting the day The Deathly Hallows Part II came out to both come faster and never come at all. As I watched the credits roll and this final piece of my childhood ended, I felt a pang of sadness and sat with my fingers gripped around the armrests. It’s over, I thought to myself nostalgically.
If you were to ask me what magic is, I would tell you this: Magic is a series that began on a napkin on a delayed train from Manchester to London—a series that grew to bring families, friends, strangers and nations together. Magic is seeing all of Hogwarts lift their wands in respect for Dumbledore and feeling as though you, and all of those surrounding you in the theater, are a part of that. Magic is loving something the same way when you’re twenty as you did when you were five. It’s getting that same enchanted feeling each time you realize its profound impact, from cracking open the book for the first time or touring the studio and seeing the sets and the props that mean so much to both your yesterday and your today. Magic is the power of books and the written word, the unity of people, an inspired love of reading and lessons of bravery, friendship, and kindness. Magic is in all of us and (because I would be crazy to think I could say it better than J.K. Rowling herself) magic is knowing that “no story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do 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.”