There was a time in my life when I knew the exact number of steps in the enchanted staircase at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I could tell anybody who would listen who authored the textbook Harry, Ron and Hermione used in their third year of Care of Magical Creatures and slipped "blast ended skrewt" into casual conversation more than I'd care to say.
I might have also yelled "wingardium leviosa" at my dog a few times too, now that I think about it.
Like a lot of kids my age, I adored the Harry Potter books, and later on, the movies too. I remember hoping against hope that I would wake up one day to find that the Ministry of Magic had made a mistake -- that I wasn't a muggle after all! On more than one occasion my brother and I had serious conversations about the possibility that Hogwarts and wizards really did exist.
"It has to be real," we decided collectively, "how else could J.K. have come up with all those details!?"
Yes, we were on a first-name basis with J.K. Rowling. Admit it: You were too.
For me, Harry and his friends weren't role models, they were peers. When I read the first book in the series, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, I was 11 years old, just like Harry. And as the characters grew up, so did I. With each installment in the series beginning on Harry's birthday (July 31st, for all you muggles out there) I watched the years tick by for my bespectacled friend. He studied for tests, developed crushes, played on sports teams and saved the wizarding world while I did similar things in the muggle world (just with a bit more MTV and pizza).
Every kid should have a Hogwarts to escape to. If I ever get the chance to meet J.K. Rowling and I'm not entirely tongue-tied, I intend to thank her for guiding me through the dark ages of my adolescence and changing the way I see the world.
So it's not hard to imagine how nervous I was when the movie franchise began. Would it tarnish the Potter name? Would they do the stories the justice they deserved? Would Ron be cute?
Luckily, after flailing a little bit with the adaptation of the first two books -- The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets -- the Potter movie machine found its groove. Ten years later, and with the impending release of the final installment later this week, I've found myself feeling sentimental.
While the movies never outshone the books for me, they were deliciously entertaining. Despite the parade of special effects, what I like most about the movies is watching the cast grow up. Right before our eyes, adult features slowly rose from mushy baby faces, voices lowered and robes were outgrown.
But don't let the hocus-pocus and Avada Kedavra fool you, that's what Harry Potter is really about. Beneath the Hippogriffs and wizard wars are three awkward kids who grow up and find their place in the world. It's as simple as that.
Harry, Ron and Hermione have officially grown up. Emma Watson is dropping out of Ivy-League schools and rocking a pixie cut, Daniel Radcliffe is exposing himself on stage and abusing alcohol and now Tom Felton is a rapper?
So I guess this is it. We passed our O.W.L.s and it's just us and the real world from here on out. There will be no more three-pound books or two-part movies to look forward to. (I mean, what is Pottermore anyway?)
But like all good things, the Harry Potter series must too come to an end. And yes, there is a good chance I'll cry a little when I see The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Not because the saga is over and Harry, Ron and Hermione will never go back to Hogwarts again, but because I never will either.