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A Lifetime of Magic

How Life Continues in the Pages of a Book; Even After Death

By Rachel EstepPublished 6 years ago 6 min read

The year is 1997. The first Harry Potter book comes out and the world has no idea that it is about to be taken by storm. No one yet knows that J.K Rowling, a young woman from the United Kingdom, has just given life to one of the greatest literary phenomenons in history. That magic is yet to be discovered. Especially for three children all the way across the world in the small town of Englewood, Ohio. I was only four when that book was released. I have very little memory of it. I do, however, have memories of the way my brother's room smelled when I snuck into it. The way that the pictures on his walls—not at all appropriate for a child—made me giggle. I remember the way his blankets felt so much warmer than mine when I would snuggle up underneath them, and I remember the sound of him coming home, and trying to put everything back the way I found it before he could realize I had been there. My first emotional connection to the famous series lies here. In the shelved of my big brother's bunk bed. Years would come and this would continue, until I was finally caught pulling Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire down from those shelves in the year 2000. I was caught by my sister, with a wide smile on her face. The look of a big sister who knew undoubtedly that they had just caught their younger sibling red handed. She laughed and asked what I was doing and I sheepishly explained to her that I was here in our brothers room to sneak a peek at books. It was hardly the worst crime in history.

Now, I had always been an advanced reader. I loved the way that books could transport you to a whole other world. Yet, as one might predict? The Harry Potter books were a little over my head, reading wise. I mostly had looked at the illustrations before each chapter, read bits and pieces and tried to understand. I should also add that most of my brother's Harry Potter books were English copies, sent to him from our Aunt. As an adult, the differences are minute; a change in verbiage here and there. As a child, I was in too deep.

Now though, my sister began to read them to me. She bought copies herself so that we didn't have to sneak in and steal my brother's when he wasn't paying attention. And through my sister's voice I learned of magic and love and beauty. I squealed with glee when Ron and his brothers rescued Harry from Privet Drive, and I cried when Cedric Diggory died. I listened and my heart soared and it sank and I fell in love.

The first movie was released in 2001, and my Aunt took me to see it. I remember that day more clearly than most childhood memories. I was so unbelievably taken with this world. I had so many many pictures in my head and now, here they were coming to life in front of me. It was true magic. When the second movie came out a year later, I begged my sister to take me and of course, she did. By the time the fifth book of the series came out in 2003, I was itching for more of the story. The bookstore that my cousin worked at was hosting a midnight release party, and I begged and cried and pleaded to be allowed to go to it. And was told no. The idea of their 10 year old being out at midnight was not something my parents quite liked. If you knew my sister though, you'd know that she had never been one to pertain to rules. I did, in fact, end up standing in a bookstore that night. I had never experienced anything like it. People were dressed up like the very witches and wizards I had so come to love. It was intoxicating and it was the first time, of many to come, that I felt like i was a part of the world I had dreamed of. We ate Bertie Botts Beans and we laughed at each others' faces. We made pretend wands and had fake duels, and we stood in line all night long to buy two copies. When we got home, I started reading mine and she started reading hers. We sat together all night and all day, hearts racing as we compared notes. "How far along are you?" or "Have you passed this part yet?"

And this became our tradition. We did this, exactly this way, for every book that was released. We saw every movie at midnight as they came.

In 2005 when my sister was diagnosed with cancer they said she didn't have long to live. A few months. And I did my share of crying, and I fought my inner demons, and when The Half-Blood Prince came out that year, my grandmother took me to buy it at midnight and my sister and I sat and read it together, as we always had. And for the next two years, I would cry at night because it seemed... unfair. She would die without knowing how the story ended. I know how that sounds. My sister was dying and I cared about a book. I know. But there was something about it that I couldn't get over. It's what kept me up at night, crying until I couldn't breathe anymore. She would die, and she would never get to find out how Harry defeated Voldemort. I prayed every single night that she would somehow, against the odds, live long enough.

She did. After being given only a few months, she lived two more years. In those years we were able to see two more movies at midnight, and yes, attend the final book release together. We cried that it would be the last, but our tears were solely for this journey that we had been on coming to an end. It was a joyful sadness. It was absolutely not the horrible gut wrenching depression that had hovered over our family for the past two years. We took our books home just after midnight and we never went to sleep. We read straight through the day, yelling back and forth between our bedrooms, jumping up to run into the other room when something particularly big happened. It was the most normal thing that we had done in a long time. It was our thing, and despite everything, we were doing it.

Five months later, Amanda died in a hospice center. The very last memory that I have of her was playing a Harry Potter scene—in the lobby of Hospice. It was the last thing we did together. When I look back on it, it feels very fitting.

She's been gone for almost 11 years. I can't hear her voice in my head anymore. I don't remember what her laugh sounded like. I miss her all the time but I don't cry for her often. Really, I don't cry for her ever. But the day that I purchased The Cursed Child I cried in the parking lot for half an hour.

I sit here sometimes and I think about all the things that she didn't get to do or see. She didn't get to see the final movies. She never got to go to Harry Potter World. She never got to taste butterbeer at Starbucks or see Fantastic Beasts. She didn't get to read The Cursed Child. I did. I did all of these things.

And she was always with me. This is where I feel her most. I don't go to her grave and talk to her. I don't sit in my bed and cry for her. When I miss my sister, I crack open the pages of a book and I find her there. I find her in Hogsmede, enjoying a Pumpkin Pasty. I find her at Hogwarts, roaming the corridors. Maybe someday the Harry Potter phenomenon will fizzle out, but to me, this will always be the place where my sister still lives.

“Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?"

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” — Dumbledore

This is, without a doubt, my favorite quote of the series. I know that she's gone. I know that the world of Harry Potter is fictional. I know that seeing her in Hogwarts living a magical like is just in my head. That's okay though, because to me, it's real.

"But know this; the ones that love us never really leave us." — Sirius Black


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