No one who isn't within about five years of our age can understand the experience of truly growing up with Harry Potter. I was part of a very lucky group of children who, as the books came out, were always around the same age as Harry, Ron, and Hermione. When I first read the books, I was a little bit younger than Harry, and my mother would read them aloud to my brother and me before bedtime. As the years went on, I caught up, and towards the end I was just a year or so older than Harry. The final book was released a month after I graduated from high school, marking the end of an era for fans all over the world, as well as for me personally as I struggled to adjust to life after high school. And now, just months after I graduated from college, the final chapter will be brought to the screen.
I am so grateful for this series and all that it has given me, most notably, three wonderful friends in the form of an orphaned boy wizard, his brave and loyal first mate, and one of the smartest, strongest girls in literary history. They have been an essential part of my childhood and young-adulthood, lighting the way for me and bearing with me through all the ups and downs, the gives and takes, the highs and lows of life. Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck at 17 years old, unable to mature past that perilous age without Harry and his friends to show me how. Instead, I am frozen in time, rereading over and over, reliving Harry's adventures, the triumph of good over evil, and the beautiful fantasy that all is well, as the final sentence of Deathly Hallows proclaims. After four years of denial and prolongation, the time has come for Harry Potter to finally come to an end. Although, it's not really the end, so much as the end of beginnings. There will be no more new books to pre-order (at least as far as J.K. Rowling has indicated), no more launch parties, no more midnight premieres of new movies to look forward to. But Hogwarts will always be just a page away, waiting for you to begin the journey once again.
Some people may scoff at my seemingly unhealthy attachment to these fictional characters. Some people may say that I'm too old to go out in public wearing a wizard hat and a wand made out of a chopstick. But I would remind those people that there is no age limit on magic, and that's exactly what stories are. To quote a young Severus Snape from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, "It's real for us."
And it always will be.