Magic is real. I know that sounds crazy, but it is true. Magic is real.
I wish I could say that yes, casting spells and charms and turning into animals is what I am referring to. Though the jury may still be out on that one, I mean that the feeling you get when you see someone or something–you know the one I mean: pure joy and happiness, like nothing else matters or could beat this moment–is magic. And in this case, the magic is doubly exciting.
Because I am talking about the world of one Mr. Harry Potter.
This what I came to London for. What I came to this country for. Is that lame? Who cares! I have never been happier getting on a train at Euston Station towards Watford Junction and taking a quick bus ride to Warner Brothers Studios to spend a whole evening exploring the Wizarding World. I took way too many photos. People told me they didn’t even need to go, that they saw it all through my Snapchat. Oh boy, are they wrong.
We started with a quick intro: a video where producers and whatnot talked about how they wanted to make Harry Potter and the Philosoper’s Stone into a film. How they thought it could be successful, but they never believed it would turn into the phenomenon it is today. Yes, I shed a tear or two. Or seven. Then we moved into a little theater, where Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint (onscreen, not in person, unfortunately) gave another glimpse into the world they called home for ten years. I cried a little again, if we are being honest.
Then the screen went up, and we were looking at the doors to the Great Hall. The real doors! We not only got to walk through then into the Great Hall itself, but we were allowed to touch them on the way in. I know that doesn’t sound cool to a lot of people, but it made me believe it was real. That it exists, and that it is not all in my head.
The Great Hall itself was, well, great. The floor tiles and the tables and the props. It was all so perfect. And there were displays of the costumes used in various films, like the real robes Daniel wore in the first film and Alan Rickman’s famous black get up. No words. I was just in awe at everything. How weird is it to be in this place I have been dreaming about? Weird. Wild. Wonderful.
And then we moved into a maze of props and sets and all-around greatness. There were bios and videos of the producers, directors, and screenwriters, followed by models of the Great Hall’s ceiling (the only one they ever made) and the ice sculpture and costumes from the Yule Ball in Goblet of Fire.
You round the corner and the warehouse opens up to the world of Hogwarts. There was the Gryffindor Common Room, complete with all the decorations and mannequins of the costumes from Philosopher’s Stone and Prisoner of Azkaban. Next to it was the Boys’ Dormitory, beds, decor, luggage, and all. Harry and Ron could have just walked in and gone to bed, no problem.
There was Dumbledore’s office, with the Sorting Hat up on a shelf, the Sword of Gryffindor, and all the sleeping portraits of past Hogwarts headmasters. More portraits from other parts of the castle were put up on the walls outside the office, along with a display of everyone’s wands and the Mirror of Erised. What did I see? A very happy me, surrounded by my fabulous friends. The Potions classroom was set up, with models of Snape, Slughorn, and every potion you could imagine. Hagrid’s hut was next to photos of all the Crookshanks and Fang and Hedwig animal actors. The Burrow’s kitchen and the Malfoy Manor sets were there, as well.
What made it such a maze were all the props sprinkled around the room. The Goblet of Fire, the Firebolt, the contents of the Room of Requirement, the Vanishing Cabinet, trophies, armor, the door to Bank Vault 217, all the Horcruxes, and so on. Anything and everything you could think of, it was there. Maybe having all of that in front of me should have ruined the magic for me, but it didn’t. Quite the opposite. It made me believe in everything. That this world happened, even if it was only onscreen. It brought me the same happiness and excitement to see it all in person. It was real.
After rounding another corner, there was the Hogwarts Express! Various train cars set up as if they were about to start filming each movie. The candy from the trolley in the first movie. Lupin’s bags from the third. Lavender’s “R + L” drawn in a heart on the window pane from the sixth…it was all there. And then, if you wanted to, you could sit in a train car with a green screen and pretend that you were seeing the English countryside or getting scared by Dementors. None of us could get our shit together for long enough or at the same time to take a decent picture, but it was the experience that matters, right? Right.
And then we made it to the cafe–only halfway through the tour. We all sat down with our Butterbeer in souvenir tankards and took a GoPro video and snapchats to commemorate the moment. I must say, even not as a slushie, it was still better than the ones from both Universal Parks in America.
Outside of the cafe stood the Knight Bus–Jaci’s favorite! She always takes the night bus here, so she felt especially linked to that big purple bus. “Take it away, Ernie!!” There was also 4 Privet Drive, with Hogwarts letters flying around the living room, and the Ford Anglia and Hagrid’s motorcycle. We wanted to spend a bit more time out here enjoying it all, but it was pretty cold by that time–and it was dark, so the lighting was pretty bad–so we moved back inside to where all the special effects and monster costumes were displayed. Gracie and Dan would have loved this part.
Hagrid’s head (for his giant double), Grawp, the mermaids, “dead” characters, and any sort of costuming prop for the magical creatures you could imagine. Aragog was hanging from the ceiling over Buckbeak, and while I love Buckbeak, I raced out of there. I definitely side with Ron when it comes to spiders. Eeek! But once you got past all the large creatures, we came upon a makshift Diagon Alley: Gringotts, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, Olivander’s Wand Shop, and so on.
It was outside of the Gringotts facade where my heart just about burst. One of the workers stopped us for a little demonstration. He showed us the different kinds of wands they used for filming. Neville’s for the action shots, Harry’s for using lumos, which, fun fact, there is no special effects for, really. It’s literally a ball of light attached to the wand. But then he showed us what they call a “hero wand,” which is what they use for close up shots.
“Now, who can tell me whose wand this–”
Yup, I spit that out so fast. Love me some Draco. It helped that I was wearing my Slytherin sweatshirt (and standing right in front of him). He knew I was serious about this. So when he asked for a volunteer and my hand shot up? He was quick to call on me. He carefully handed me Draco’s actual wand–yup, the real one that Tom Felton used in the movies, that he touched–and let me cast a spell with it. Oh wow, I have never been happier. Near tears. I was too excited to cry. But alas, that was the end of the demostration and we had to move on. I will always cherish that moment (even if thousands of other people got to do it, too).
We wandered through one more room full of little models of the sets before entering a room with one full model of Hogwarts. In the movies, you don’t always get a full picture of it and you are left imagining what some parts of it look like. Well, here we got a 360 degree view of every little bit of it. The towers to the Great Hall to the greenhouses to the boat house where (cue the tears) Snape died. I got all the chills while we slowly made our way around the room, seeing the castle at different levels. So much emotion for such a wonderful series. A set of books and movies that changed my life.
I finished off the trip with a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a postcard of the Golden Trio from the first movie, and a Slytherin water bottle. I wanted to buy the whole store, really. Anything to hold onto this day forever.
I would just like to thank JK Rowling for creating this world I love so much and for inspiring me to keep writing. I will always cherish the Wizarding World and everything she created. My children and my children’s children (and so on) will know the stories. I will hold onto these memories and these characters and everything I have learned from them for the rest of my life. And I know this is mushy, but it’s all true.
So 1500 words summed up to four: I love Harry Potter.
Your Shrewd Slytherin Writer Friend, Ashley