The following is an admittedly sentimental tribute, but one that I felt needed to be written anyway.
I always hated how long it took for books to come when I ordered them from a book order. Now when I order books as a teacher, they come in less than a month. The benefit of online orders, I suppose. But when I was in school, a teacher had to wait for all orders to be turned in, mail the order, and wait for the books.
I don't think any wait was quite so long as the wait for you.
Maybe that's just because now that I know what I was really waiting for, the wait seemed extended. Maybe it was actually longer. (I did, after all, turn my book orders in as soon as I could. I'm a bit anal that way.) Either way, real or projected memory, the wait seemed interminable.
I have to be honest, though. I ordered you because of your cover. There wasn't much in the book order that time that looked interesting, but as an early teen without a job and only a small allowance, buying my own books was something of a luxury. I have another confession: I didn't read the first story first. All three were, I think, available in the book order - but it was less expensive to buy the second and third books in a set than it was to order them individually, and I couldn't afford them both. So I missed out on that story until a bit later. Luckily, it didn't make any difference.
By the time I discovered your story, I was too old to believe that Hogwarts was real. I didn't, like I had as a child that knocked on the back of wardrobes, start writing furious letters to Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall demanding to know why I hadn't been admitted to your school - but for all the time I spent in your world, I may as well have been.
Because that's the thing - whether it was real or happening in my head, that world made a difference to me.
For one thing, it made me see that answering lots of questions and getting homework in on time and loving to study were not bad things. I loved school dearly and always had, but knew that I was often the butt of jokes about being a teacher's pet or being too smart for my own good, or being a nerd. But I wasn't trying to be a teacher's pet - I genuinely loved and admired those who opened my eyes. I didn't think I was too smart for my own good - I thought I had so much to learn that there wasn't time to waste not asking questions. As for being a nerd, well, that was probably true. And while you weren't really like that - Hermione was. From her I learned that a girl can be both smart and kind, passionate and vulnerable, independent and reliant. I'm still learning from her.
For another thing, I learned how to look at life for the meaning it held. When things were hard, I was able to step back and see myself as the hero of my own story to try and figure out what to do next. I remembered the wise words of advice from Professor Dumbledore when he said that our choices matter more than our abilities, and that who we are born doesn't matter as much as who we grow to be. As a person often insecure in her own strengths and even more afraid of her own weaknesses, I gained perspective that allowed me to not be so hard on myself. To allow myself room to improve.
But, to be fair, I learned these lessons from other stories as well. I did learn them, perhaps, more potently from you, but I did find them in other places. There is, though, one lesson that I think can be directly linked to the years I spent waiting for your stories to come, and it was probably the most important lesson of all. Your books linked me to my family and to my friends. They gave me memories. See, I can be a pretty solitary person. I like people, but I don't often get attached to them. When life changes and people move on, I let them. I don't hold on to something that doesn't exist any more, or that I've grown out of. This is, perhaps, a virtue and a vice. But your books are connected to some of my most precious and treasured memories. For example:
-The first time I went to a midnight showing of your movie with a group of friends who, after a rocky few years of being very lonely, liked me for who I was.
-Waiting for your stories to come and spending hours discussing what we thought might happen to you or what things might be important with another group of friends. We eventually branched out into doing this not just about you, but about everything. It taught me how to think.
-Waiting up all night for the release of the fifth story, reading in the living room of my friend, and getting up early the next morning for a matinee performance of a play I was in. She got to read backstage and I didn't - I was horribly jealous.
-Perhaps most treasured of all - going to get the last book with my younger brother. It was one of the first times we really, honestly spent time together as adults, and I wouldn't have wanted to share that night with anyone else but him. Later that day our entire house was silent - everyone was reading. We had four different copies of the book at once, so that everyone could read. In a technology happy house like mine - that silence was one of a kind, and really special.
Your books didn't make a reader out of me - I'd loved to read since before I really knew how. But your books did make a scholar, a friend, an adventurer, and a more determined person out of me. I may not have attended your school or been there in reality - but I felt like I was - which means your story changed me.
Tonight I'll gather with friends and dress up and eat pumpkin pasties and drink butterbeer and, for the last time, trek to the theater to watch a midnight showing of a movie about you. It's hard to believe it's nearly over. I'm going to miss it terribly. Our journey started more than ten years ago. And I think it's left us both better off. Now all that's left, I suppose, is for both of us to take the lessons learned and do something about them. Make the world better.
So thank you, Mr. Potter - and you, Jo - for the honor and pleasure of your company. It's been an incredible ride. Thank you for including me on a journey that included millions, but felt so very personal.