Like every child who grew up in the 00s, I was obsessed with Harry Potter. I read the books, watched the movies, and scoured HP websites for hints and guesses of what was to come. Unlike every child who was obsessed with Harry Potter, my obsession never really stopped. Just last year my brother bought me a wand for Christmas. The kids I nanny are reading the series for the first time, and the three of us are equally delighted to discuss Hogwarts for literally hours.
Thankfully, my best friend from college was similarly obsessed. Stephanie and I watched A Very Potter Musical in one awestruck sitting, then proceeded to quote and sing it for the rest of our friendship. We always talked about visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL, but we graduated, moved to different states, and grew up.
Or did we!? No, we didn’t. Grow up, that is.
Newly grown up and working full time as a children’s librarian (during which I…threw a Harry Potter party and made the rest of the staff dress as Hogwarts professors), I was in my office one day when Stephanie called me.
“We’re going to Harry Potter World!” she screamed.
“Wait, what?” I stuttered. I stopped twirling in my chair. This was serious.
“There’s a concert happening during a weekend in September, and if you go through them you can get cheap tickets! I already talked to my friend Amanda, and her parents are letting us use their timeshare in Orlando. Buy your plane tickets!!”
I bought my plane tickets, invited my friend Laura, and soon the four of us were standing in front of the Hogwarts Express, gaping in maniacal glee. Although September in Florida is still pretty warm, my brain immediately accepted the snow covered buildings that twisted and leaned at angles that could only be sustained by magic. We went to every store–Zonko’s, Ollivander’s, and Honeyduke’s–only to wish we had more galleons in our bank accounts. After eating at the Three Broomsticks and chugging extremely sweet Butterbeer, we had to use the ladies’ room. Sitting on the toilet, I heard the unmistakable sound of Moaning Myrtle’s voice.
“Guys!” I yelled through the bathroom partitions. “It’s Moaning Myrtle!”
“I know!” I heard several stalls to my right. “This is so cool!”
It was undoubtedly the coolest peeing experience of my life.
The shops of Hogsmeade were merely a tease; what really mattered was the castle looming on a hill at the end of the street. Hogwarts. The line to ride Harry Potter World’s most amazing ride was half the fun–we passed between statues of winged pigs, wound down into the dungeons where we passed Professor Snape’s office and the Mirror of Erised. Unsurprisingly, I saw myself standing in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is, of course, my heart’s desire.
We made our way through the Herbology greenhouse into the front hall with its house points containers. We even got to walk through Dumbledore’s office, where an impressively realistic hologram–I mean, whoops, the real deal, it was really him–told us that a young Voldemort once stood just where we were standing. “It is the choices we make in life that matter,” he wisely intoned, and I nodded. Through hallways of moving and talking portraits, we arrived in the Defense Against the Dark Arts room.
A door creaked open and closed once more. From beneath an invisibility cloak, hologram Harry, Hermione, and Ron appeared! They talked amongst themselves and to us, and when trying to convince us to skip Professor Binn’s class to go to a Quidditch match (uh, no convincing necessary!), Ron waved his wand and accidentally made it snow on us. SNOW. It was cold, and it melted on the floor and in our hair. Now, I was already primed and ready to enjoy Harry Potter World with my child-like heart, but that moment more than any other filled me with awe and delight.
And remember, that was just the line. The ride itself seats four, so Stephanie, Laura, Amanda and I went together. Hermione said, “On three, say Observatory!” which of course we did as she threw magic dust on us. AND THEN WE FLEW. Harry flew alongside us on his broom, and together we soared out the Observatory window and over the serene landscape of Hogwarts. Serene, that is, until a dragon breathed hot vapor on us, spiders in the Forbidden Forest spit webbing on us, and dementors flew close to suck out our souls. Harry intervened at the last minute, shouting “Expecto Patronum!” and the four of us cheered for him loudly. The ride ended when we flew through the doors of the Great Hall and all the Harry Potter characters crowded together to applaud our survival.
Stephanie grabbed my hand. We stared at each other with wide eyes and hopelessly overwhelmed smiles. “This is magical,” she whispered.
“Let’s do it again,” I replied.