^^^ Dressed up as Hermione & Luna for Halloween 2008.  ^^^
^^^ Before the last movie premiere. ^^^

Unlike most people my age, I didn't grow up reading Harry Potter. In fact, it wasn't until recently (2007, to be exact) that I became a fan of J.K. Rowling's popular fantasy series. I picked up the first book when I was in 3rd grade because my brother loved it—and I knew that in order for my brother to like a book, it had to be pretty darn good. However, after diving into the first few chapters, I was convinced that it was nothing special. There was a boy who lived in a closet and a large number of mail-carrier owls and a giant named Hagrid... Where was all of this going? As ashamed as I am to admit this, I thought it was rather boring at the time. Fantastic tales of an evil-fighting wizard must not have been my cup of tea, I guess. So without a second thought, I put it back on Jason's shelf and moved on to another novel. (Probably something lame like The Bailey School Kids.)

Then, when I was 10 years old, the magical world of Hogwarts came to life through motion picture. And let me tell you, it was love at first sight. The magic spells (I bet you can guess my favorite) and the fearless frizzy-haired witch, the flying brooms and the beautiful English accents... Oh man, was I hooked! So much so that I may or may not have begged my mother to purchase The Sorcerer's Stone on VHS immediately after it came out. Up until the summer before my sophomore year, the films alone suited me just fine. Those ABC Family Harry Potter marathons kept me satisfied for the most part, even when nearly all of my friends would not stop talking about how the books were much better than the movies. It was actually during the midnight premiere of The Order of the Phoenix—while my boyfriend (at the time) was trying to explain what the heck was going on—that I realized how desperately I needed to read those stupid 700-page novels. Because, boy oh boy, was I missing out.

So that's what I did. Tenth grade was devoted to reading the adventures of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. (No, unlike you and everyone else, I did not finish all seven books in a week. Or two weeks. Or even a few months. I'm a slow reader, remember?) But thank goodness I finally did, because they sort of changed my life for the better. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, maybe I am just a tad. But seriously, the stories are as good as gold (even if Hermione and Harry don't end up together). And although I wasn't quick enough to make any of the Barnes & Noble midnight book release parties, I was able to fully understand and enjoy the final three HP movies at their midnight premieres (including last Friday's, which was bloody brilliant, by the way). 

Needless to say, I'm going to miss it all now that it's over—dressing up in Hogwarts robes, having endless conversations about our favorite characters (Hermione and Lupin for me), and waiting in excited anticipation as the first few notes of John Williams' theme song begin to play. Those will always remain, without a doubt, some of the most memorable moments of my childhood.