At page 699 of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” I had to put down the book.
My face was already soaked with tears, my body convulsing with hysterical sobs, but on page 699, I had to drop everything and run to the bathroom because I was sure I was going to be sick.
As it happens, I wasn’t, but not for lack of impulse. Thankfully, I had only eaten a single samosa in the past 24 hours, so there was nothing to give when the emotional upheaval hit (pun intended).
Page 699 falls under chapter 34, “The Forest Again,” and it remains to this day one of the most heartbreaking episodes of literature I have ever read. It is when Harry resigns himself to death and summons the spirits of his parents and guardians to walk with him to the close. It is when his mother tells him he has been brave and that they will stay with him “until the very end.”
In her dedication of the book, J.K. Rowling thanks us, the readers, for doing the same.
I’ve been with Harry since I was eight years old. That’s well over half my life, and for all that time, there has always been something to look forward to in the world of Potter. Even since the last book and the empty feeling of knowing it was the end, there was always this last movie. It was a pleasant, unreachable future, distant enough that I didn’t need to worry about losing Harry forever.
But that day has come.
I feel like I’ve already let go of Harry so many times. When I finally finished that last book (and for the two days that followed, when I was too ill to go into work) and every time I’ve read it since, my heart aches for him and for all the characters that I’ve come to love in the past 12 years. And I know I’m not alone: We are the “Harry Potter” generation, the grade-schoolers who are starting to head out into the real world with the comfort of Hogwarts tucked away inside our minds. Whether you loved, hated or just never bothered with it, “Harry Potter” is part of your adolescence and your adulthood. These books and movies have been our constant through the most formative years of our lives.
Maybe it’s truer for me than most. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been The Harry Potter Girl, a label I wear proudly because it’s just that true. I’ve got too many “Harry Potter” t-shirts and too much wall space devoted to the boy wizard, but I never imposed my obsession upon anyone. It was always more important to remind myself how much I love Jo’s books and count myself lucky for what they’ve done for me.
When the final film releases, I’m going to be at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Fla. for LeakyCon, my sixth Harry Potter convention. I’ll be sitting in a packed movie theater hours before midnight with other conference attendees — better known to me as the Harry Potter fandom, my second family.
I’m pretty sure we’ll all be crying before the opening titles, and I’m truly terrified for the visualization of chapter 34. After 12 years, though, that’s not what matters. Whatever happens on screen will pale in comparison to our reaction as fans. I’ll be a mess again: eyeliner everywhere and sobs louder than the film audio, but I won’t be alone.
In the end, the true worth of Harry Potter resides in the days that follow — they will be filled with concerts, keynotes, discussions, parties, sleepless nights, new friends made in the lobby and of course, a ball to send everyone off in style. What I’ll take away is the experience of being with hundreds of people to whom I don’t have to justify being The Harry Potter Girl, because they’ve all been there.
In the words of Harry and the Potters, “No, it won’t be over ’til it’s over / Yes, it’s we who will decide / That it won’t be over / Unless we have all died.” “Harry Potter” isn’t ending with this movie, just as it didn’t end with the last book. The magic Jo created is in everything I do and in all those friends I’ve made because of this. It’s in every tear, every smile and every hug that will mark July 15 and the future beyond it.
It’s in all of us, because we stuck with Harry, until the very end.