On July 14, peculiar sightings were reported across the nation. Flocks of people gathered outside of movie theaters, clad in stifling black robes in the midsummer’s heat. Lightning bolts decorated their foreheads while spectacles perched on their noses.  They clutched sticks in hands white-knuckled with excitement, waving them about to choruses of jargon. Some witnesses reported sinister figures with skulls drawn on their forearms, hoods drawn over their eyes. Mothers gripped their toddlers’ hands tightly as they passed the scenes, the elderly muttered “whippersnappers” under their breath, and the devout crossed their chests.

            It was not satanic possession that held these figures captive, however. It was a force far more powerful, an obsession that consumed the life of the victim entirely— Potter mania.

              Whether or not you were among those that attended the midnight premiere of the last installment of Harry Potter, the boy wizard has indubitably affected your life in some way. WhenHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stonehit American bookshelves in 1998, it took the nation by storm. Children devoured the book, parents read it to their broods as a bedtime story, and adults snuck in chapters at their lunch breaks.

              The magical world that J.K. Rowling created provided the perfect escape from the tedium of everyday life, transporting the reader into a realm of broomsticks, castles, unicorns, and magic. The concept of muggle-borns (wizards born to nonmagical parents) excited devotees, giving them hope that they, too, would receive a letter stamped with the Hogwarts’ seal. Ridiculous as it may seem, the thought of a world in which a flick of a stick could make your nemesis’s face explode with boils was too tantalizing to dismiss.

            Admit it. We’ve all been there, naïve eleven year olds staying up until midnight of his/her birthday night, waiting for an owl to scratch at our windowpane and hand us the ticket to a magical paradise. The owl’s inevitable no show is blamed on a change in the rules, or an error in navigation. It has to be. After all, youarea wizard. Right?

               Then came the movies, and, for Warner Bros., the money. The first film grossed $90.3 million in its opening weekend, shattering the previous record held byJurassic Park. Cinema added a whole new dynamic to the Harry Potter experience, projecting what we had conjured up in our minds onto theater screens and bringing the fantasy to life. For the first time, we could see the whirling towers of Hogwarts, the swirling broomsticks of Quidditch, and Hermione’s Hagrid-sized hair. As for the auditory perspective—they all had British accents.How good could it get?

            As time passed, the books grew steadily darker, the readership grew steadily larger, and the actors’ voices grew steadily deeper. Remember Malfoy’s altered appearance in the third movie? Suddenly he had a longer face, a stronger jaw, and snarled “Potter” an octave lower. Puberty had hit Hogwarts. Years progressed, and similar changes took place around us. We were no longer the robed marchers in the lower school Halloween parade; we were the spectators, cooing over the Harrys that tottered past, swallowed up by their costumes and tripping over the brims of their cloaks.  Then, as the first middle school dances rolled around, we became attendees of the Yule Ball, girls discovering the wonders of makeup and hair straighteners (as Hermione discovered “hair straightening serum”) and boys self-consciously stretching their necks, trying their very hardest to appear tall. Freshman year crept upon us, and suddenly the boys didn’t have to stretch to tower over the girls. Boys accumulated inches and purchased new pants; Ron shot up like a bean stalk and his robes grew short (with Harry’s growth spurt being far less exaggerated). The students of Hogwarts and St. Paul’s were, simply put, growing up. 

             There’s no mystery as to why, when the final credits ofHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2scrolled off the screen, many fans believed their childhood went with them. We spent our youth with Harry Potter, experiencing all the pitfalls and thrills of aging beside them (though, admittedly, without the presence of a dark lord bent on destroying us looming over our heads). Thus, when the screen flickered off and the crowds carried us out into the 3 a.m. gloom, the finality of it all rocked many like a well-aimed curse. Potterpression struck.  No more midnight premieres or book releases, no more anticipating plot twists, no more suspense. All… over.

           Or is it?

           You see, inside all devotees is a little piece of the series’ soul—a horcrux, if you will. Tucked inside the depths of our heads, it expresses itself at scattered intervals. Instead of our foreheads burning, however, we pick up a worn copy ofGoblet of Fire, popChamber of Secretsin the DVD player, or dress up for a Harry Potter themed day at our school. As long as we live, the series lives with us.  And just as the series survives, our childhood does, buried deep within our psyches; always there, providing us with a youthful sense of wonder and thrill that will never truly end.

The End

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