I can’t believe it’s actually over.

12 years ago, my mom & I were in a bookstore during one of her rare days “home”. Mom had instilled in me a love of reading from a very young age; I could easily devour several children’s novels in a weekend. The one thing I never had to beg for were books to read, & this day was no exception. As we were browsing the shelves, Mom with her new John Grisham novel & me with God-only-knows-what, Mom spotted a book on one of the “feature” tables. She’d heard about it – that it was a good book, the first in what would be a series. She bought it for me, of course.

I was quickly immersed in a world where the only limit was my imagination. Motorcycles flew through the air, piloted by half-giants. Owls delivered the post, to anyone (even without an address), even on Sunday. Frogs were made of chocolate, & “Every Flavor” really meant every flavor (ear wax, anyone?).

Page after page, I voraciously consumed each & every word. Pretty soon, I knew the rules of Quidditch, the name of a three-headed dog, & the sin that was to kill a unicorn. I learned that “the wrong sort” meant very different things to two very different eleven-year-old boys. I found that words overheard could hurt more than a mountain troll’s club, but that friendships are built on trust & loyalty. I learned that everyone has weaknesses, but more importantly, strengths.

Over the next eight years, I anticipated each of the six remaining books. I read book five in only three days (that’s 870 pages, if you’re curious). I eagerly awaited the movie series based on the books, though my heart remained true to the written words. When the seventh & final book was released, it was bittersweet.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what books I’m referring to. The Boy Who Lived, the one with the lightning-shaped scar, Harry Potter.

These books had shaped me, in ways I probably still don’t understand. They weren’t just magic & spells, Good vs. Evil, a quest for the ages. They were family & friends, hope & love, loyalty, life. They were goosebumps & chills, & the ability to breath fire when certain characters appeared (I’m looking at you, Bellatrix). They were so much more than just words on a page. They were a story. They were people, with hopes & dreams, anger & happiness, laughter & tears. They were rewarding & disappointing, uplifting & crushing. They were everything that we were, everything we hoped to be, & everything we hoped we’d never be.

Strangely enough, at the end of the last book, it didn’t seem like the end. Yes, I knew that it was the last book, but there were still movies to come – they were only just releasing Order of the Phoenix. So as I sat last night in the theater, my eyes welling up with tears, it was the ultimate end. After this, there would be no more. I mean, this isn’t exactly The Land Before Time. As the credits began to roll, I felt… lost. There was no proclamation of, “I can’t wait until they release the next one!” There just… was.

Upstairs, in a box, are my books. Waiting patiently for a bookshelf to reside on, they sit. One day, probably a few years from now, I will open the cover of that first book once again, this time with a little girl laying next to me in the bed. Harry Potter will teach her the lessons he taught me, & help shape her character as he did mine. Hermione will teach her that it’s okay to be smart, & that knowledge is power. Ron will teach her that friends are the greatest possession one has, & that a little laughter never hurt anyone. Neville will teach her that although things might not always go her way, her moment will come & she will shine. Luna will teach her that being different isn’t all that bad, & that true friends don’t mind anyway. She will learn that family isn’t defined by blood, but by heart.

& that no matter what, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

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