I had my tonsils and adenoids removed in the first week of November 2001. Since I was about seven, I wasn’t quite sure why I needed them removed, but I later learned that I had trouble breathing in my sleep due to (for lack of a better term) huge adenoids. They got rid of my tonsils while they were there. And for eleven days, I was in terrible pain. I couldn’t eat or drink anything without suffering. Nothing was fun, not even lying in bed and watching mindless, silly videotapes all day long.
So, when I finally went back to school after an almost two-week recovery period, my body was pretty much healed. My heart wasn’t. If you’ve ever had intensive surgery, you know that a bad recovery is an emotional vampire. Even at seven, you feel hopeless. I needed something to look forward to. For me, that was the release of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in theaters on November 14, 2001.
Except it kind of wasn’t. My mother was the one looking forward to “Harry Potter,” and I was looking forward to finally being able to swallow popcorn (my favorite food) again. I couldn’t have cared less about this “Harry Potter” character. But for weeks, it was all that my excitable twentysomething mother could talk about. She made me sit down and watch interviews with the young cast members. She would say over and over, “Blue, I know you’re going to love this movie.” Her efforts didn’t matter. I was thoroughly uninterested. Also, my throat hurt.
Ultimately, of course, my mother was right. And mere seconds into “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” I was entranced. I was in love. It came as no surprise to anyone else. Practically since my birth, I’ve believed in magic. I don’t mean that I’ve tried to practice spells because I haven’t. I don’t think they would work. But I do believe that we are all given sparks of magic, unique to us despite a general inability to summon a book from across the room or transport our bodies from one place to the next. Magic is inside all of us. What matters is what we do with it.
And in “Harry Potter,” they do lots with it. Good and bad things (obviously, else there would be no story to latch onto and never let go). But magic saved Harry’s life, and in an unusual way, it saved mine, too. When I saw these characters onscreen (and not long after, read them in the pages) who believed in the power of their own magic, I learned to believe in the power of mine. Maybe I couldn’t turn water to rum or make objects fly, but I had magic. I just needed to discover it.
The next sixteen years were my journey to discover my own magic. And while I did learn that like Hermione Granger, I was magically intellectual, I would soon learn that she was right to tell Harry what she did in “Sorcerer’s Stone” just moments before his showdown with Professor Quirrell.
“Books and cleverness. There are more important things.”
That’s been particularly difficult for me to accept, especially as I enter the last week of my undergraduate career and prepare for my first year of graduate study. I’ve often defined my worth in the number of “A” grades on my transcripts and how many times the word excellent is dropped into the margins of my essays. My talents are nothing to sneeze at, and I am grateful for them. But I am more than the smarts and academic work ethic I learned from Hermione Granger. I have Harry Potter’s bravery, Ron Weasley’s devotion, Albus Dumbledore’s famous style, and Rubeus Hagrid’s joie de vie. I laugh like the Weasley twins, smirk like Sirius Black, love deeply like Lily Evans, and hurt deeply like Severus Snape. I am all of these people because they taught me how to be a person. I am all of these people because they taught me what it means to be truly magical.
On March 25, 2017, a local movie theater premiered “Sorcerer’s Stone” on its big screen for the first time since the film’s original release sixteen years ago. Of course, my parents bought me tickets about three months in advance, and I was the first person to walk (read: run) into the theater that day. I was an hour early, and not even that hour of waiting could prepare me. As soon as the John Williams score and the Warner Brothers logo came together on screen, I sobbed. I sobbed like I was in pain, and I suppose in a manner of speaking, I was in pain. Terrible pain, actually.
See, it’s probably an unpopular opinion, but “Sorcerer’s Stone” is actually my favorite of the “Harry Potter” films. I know the kids’ acting is actually below sub-par, and the story is kind of annoyingly cheerful and relatively absent of the chilling “death as a lover” theme that will haunt later installments, but I love it. I love it because it is Harry’s beginning, and it is representative of my own beginning. When this film was initially released, I was in the first grade. I was starting real school for the first time, and things weren’t going well. Apart from the surgery I had in November, I couldn’t seem to fit in with any of the other kids in my class, and that was hard for me. But “Harry Potter” gave me something to look forward to and something to call a friend even when I didn’t have play dates and birthday parties with spectacular attendance. It would stick with me as I transitioned from my Montessori school to a Catholic school down the road from my house, as I graduated from high school, and as I entered into a university for the first time. I have been with Harry since the beginning of his journey, and as another one of my journeys ends, he is still right beside me.
There is just one difference between the end of my undergraduate journey and the other journeys Harry and I have taken together. This time, I’m not thrilled to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express and leave. Like Harry, a large part of me wants to stay where I am—where I fit in and where I, for the first time in my life, feel important. Hogwarts is Harry’s home. I’ve finally found mine. Just when it feels like I’m settling into it and finding a comfortable magic, I’m forced to leave. I don’t like to think about it much, so I thought that maybe, an all-day theater viewing of “Sorcerer’s Stone” would help.
I don’t know how many languages I would need to say, “It didn’t” in for you to fully understand how little help it was.
I’m always a little teary when Harry, Ron, and Hermione board the Hogwarts Express after the end of their first year. There’s something about knowing how the story will truly end (mixed with that oh-my-gosh-beautiful John Williams score) that will get to me until my dying day. But this time, as I can still see my own Hogwarts Express coming at me faster and faster every passing second, I couldn’t handle Harry’s temporary goodbye to Hagrid. I’m afraid to say goodbye to my own Hagrids. Worse yet was listening to the last two lines of the film. Harry joins Ron and Hermione on the train, and Hermione says, “Feels strange to be going home, doesn’t it?”
And Harry says, “I’m not going home. Not really.”
In the past, that line has broken me down because of what Hogwarts means to Harry. But to return to the theater to watch this film—my own beginning—made me cry for myself. It’s time to leave Hogwarts. It’s time to take the magic I’ve learned since I met Harry and since I started college and apply it to the world outside these walls. And although it’s time for me to leave Hogwarts, Harry will be with me on my next journey.
Home is wherever I can be made of magic.