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On Friday, July 15th, at 3 a.m., my boyfriend, two of our friends and I were just being seated for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two at the Great Clips IMAX theater, in 3D. I was both looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. I was looking forward to it because I'm a huge Harry Potter fan (hence why I dragged my friends up to the cities for a 3 a.m. showing), but I was dreading it because I knew what this movie meant. It meant the end of Harry Potter, and the thought of that made me really, really sad.

Many people don't understand just exactly why it makes me so sad. But Harry Potter has been a big part of my life for the past 16 years. I remember the first Harry Potter book. I was 6 years old, and Geri McShane, a coworker of my dad's at the Albert Lea Tribune, had recommended he read the book to us. It was the very first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. He started reading it to us, because none of us were at the reading level required to be able to understand it ourselves. He never really got interested in it, and didn't finish reading it. But that didn't stop me from trying. It wasn’t until I was about 8 that I could actually read it all myself. By that time, the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, had been released, so I checked it out from the library and read it. From then on, I was hooked. When I was in fourth grade, our teacher read the first, second and third books to us aloud during the hour of "quiet time" we got after lunch. By that time, however, I had been through every book that had been released. There were only four at the time. Then, when the fifth, sixth and seventh books were released, I bought them the day they came out and locked myself in my room and read them straight through.

After the books came the movies. I didn't see the first two in the theater, but I remember seeing the third through seventh movies in theaters at least twice. I saw the third, fifth, and seventh (part two) at the IMAX. I was obsessed. I bought Harry Potter posters, film books, coins, music boxes, apparel — I couldn't get enough. I even wrote Harry Potter stories and published them on various fan fiction Web sites from fifth to eighth grade. I don't really know why I stopped.

There are tons of people around the world who are huge Harry Potter fans like myself. Eight million copies of Deathly Hallows sold in its first 24 hours in the U.S. alone. Three hundred and twenty five million copies of the first six books have sold globally (as of 2007). The book has been translated into 65 languages, including Hindi, Welsh and Vietnamese. The books have been distributed in over 200 countries. As of 2007, the five Harry Potter movies made a worldwide $4.1 billion. And J.K. Rowling's net worth is estimated at $1 billion. 

J.K. Rowling didn't just write a book series. She created a new and amazing world, a world where magic is real, broomsticks fly, and things like giants, house elves, and witches and wizards exist. To some, it may sound silly. But to most, the books are treasured — the numbers pretty much speak for themselves.

Seeing the last Harry Potter film in theaters signified the end of an era. As you read the books, you come to know and love the characters in them. Even when Deathly Hallows came out, I still knew I had three more movies to look forward to. But now it's all over. I grew up with Harry Potter, and the end of the books and movies is kind of like the end of my childhood (which is ironic, because I'll be 18 in a month). I remember crying while reading about Harry's Godfather, Sirius Black, dying in the fifth book, and Dumbledore dying in the sixth book, and then Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, and Nymphadora Tonks all being killed in the seventh book. Following all of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger's adventures through seven books and eight movies gave me something to be excited about and to look forward to all these years. It makes me very sad to see it all end, but I'll always be a huge Harry Potter fan. I'm so glad J.K. Rowling could create something like this, something that can touch the hearts of so many like it did mine. I've started re-reading the books from the beginning, although I've read them all at least three times. They don't get old, not to me. They'll forever hold a place in my heart.

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