There was a sense of camaraderie in the air. For once, when I looked right or left, I glimpsed more than my fellow New York University Student and a face that I had noticed briefly while passing through the Academic Center lounge. I saw more than the tenuous connection between them and me that led us both to choose London as our Study Abroad location of choice. I recognized… another Harry Potter fan.
In addition to the many historic places that we were given an opportunity to visit, NYU also arranged this optional tour of “The Making of Harry Potter” Studios. And to my utter horror, I noticed I was almost crying. While they played a five-minute introductory video about the world phenomenon inspired by these seven books, eight movies, the knowledge of their personal impact on me hit. It’s not just that I am a fan girl of the series: I don’t go to the midnight showings, or play on JK Rowling’s interactive site, Pottermore. I don’t have a wand of my own. But as Harry’s destiny was slowly revealed to him, usually during heart-to-heart talks with Professor Dumbledore, I also started coming into myself.
To other people, this must all seem a little ridiculous, but the proof of their impact is alive in much of my current personality. These were the books that brought me into the world of fantasy; Rowling was the teacher from whom I learned I wanted to write for a living. So many of the other doors that I have climbed through, so many paths that I have chosen to take, were only made available to me by that first decision— to pick up The Sorcerer’s Stone where it sat on the shelf in the library, going on a decade ago. I try to reverse those years in my head, to see how similar or different my life would be, if I had just passed it by, but I’ve learned it’s impossible to separate the strands of a person’s existence from their experiences, and I got a headache from trying.
All of this helped me come into a realization…. I never believed in the kind of magic that allowed cars to fly and water to turn into rum, but there is something incredible about the way people are able to take small moments, ones almost without significance, and turn them into milestones. On any given day, you might pass someone on the street who will turn out to be your best friend. You might run out of a necessary ingredient and end up creating something new. You might jot down a line that has been echoing through your head over and over again, only to rediscover it later and turn it into a song.
As my classmates and I snapped pictures of Hagrid’s hut and the Gryffindor Common Room, we were not attempting to capture a genuine artifact; instead, we were preserving an emotion from the other side of the camera. We were laying tribute to everything we felt, everything we understand about Harry Potter whether that be his lessons of love, loyalty, fairness, charity, or mercy. We were also recognizing the part our enthusiasm had to play in the magic.
As the holiday season encroaches, and people put on the visible or invisible markers of Santa Claus, I hope that this type of magic abounds. I hope everyone experiences the same wonder, of sharing something with their fellow human beings and admiring them for that. I hope… that everyone has a Very Harry Christmas!